Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, Faces Another Imprisonment



Dear friends,
last week as you will be aware, Palestinian activists carried out the first BDS picket against an Israeli supermarket located in an illegal settlement in the Occupied West Bank.  The non-violent protesters were violently beaten and attacked by Israeli Occupation Forces and 4 were arrested, including my friend Bassem Tamimi from the village of An Nabi Saleh.  
Bassem spent 1 year in prison for the "crime" of non-violent activism and he now remains in prison with 3 broken ribs and is now facing another imprisonment for his non-violent activism.  
Please find below a media release from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee on Bassem's arrest and detention.
For more information and updates on Nabi Saleh visit the Nabi Saleh Solidarity webpage here  or join the Nabi Saleh Solidarity page on Facebook here.

In solidarity,
Kim
***
 
Media Alert: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Palestinian Activist, Bassem Tamimi, Faces Another Imprisonment

Tamimi, who was released last march after spending 13 months in prison for organizing demonstrations, was re-arrested last week at a protest and may face 17 months.
When: Wednesday, October, 31, 2012 at 10am
Where: Ofer military court
Media contact: Abir Kopty +972-54-6782420
Bassem Tamimi, 45, a Palestinian protest organizer and grassroots activist from the village of Nabi Saleh, was arrested last Wednesday, October 24, during a demonstration inside Sha’ar Benyamin settlement, east of Ramallah.
As the demonstration came to an end, several Israeli police officers violently detained Tamimi, breaking three of his ribs in the process. He was subsequently interrogated on participating in an unauthorized demonstration and assault of a police officer.
During his latest prison stint, which ended only in March, Tamimi was recognized as a human rights defender by the European Union and pronounced a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. He was convicted of protest-organizing related charges, and sentenced to 13 months of imprisonment, as well as a 17-month suspended sentence that now looms over his head.
Tamimi's arrest has already been extended twice by a military judge, who denied him bail, “because of his burdening past, pending suspended sentence and recent imprisonment”. An indictment against Tamimi will be filed tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Ofer Military Court by the Israeli Military Prosecution, which is expected to petition to extend Tamimi's remand until the end of legal proceedings against him.
Nariman Tamimi, Bassem's wife, said today, “According to military law, Palestinians don't have a right to demonstrate – all protest is illegal. An Israeli military judge told my husband that if he exercises his right to protest again, he will spend 17 months in prison. Well, he wouldn't sit quietly at home, and now they want to try and punish him for that”.
Background
Bassem Tamimi’s previous detention spanned between March 2011 to March 2012. He was indicted on protest-organizing charges, and has spent 13 months in jail. His trial has shed light on systematic violations of Palestinian minors' right during police interrogations, and the use of their coerced confession to persecute political leadership.

Tamimi has been recognized by the European Union as a human rights defender and recently pronounced a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

During the course of Tamimi's trial, new evidence has emerged, including first hand verification given by a military commander of disproportional use of force by the army in response to peaceful demonstrations, as well as police admittal of systematic violations of Palestinian minors' rights during police interrogations, when a police interrogator who questioned both material witnesses against Tamimi, said on the stand that in his 25 years as an officer, he cannot recall a single time in which a Palestinian minor was allowed the presence of his parents during questioning.
Personal Background
Bassem Tamimi is a veteran Palestinian grassroots activist from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, north of Ramallah. He is married to Nariman Tamimi, with whom he fathers four children - Wa’ed (16), Ahed (12), Mohammed (10) and Salam (7).

As a veteran activist, Tamimi has been arrested by the Israeli army 11 times to date, though he was never convicted of any offense. Tamimi spent roughly three years in administrative detention, with no charges brought against him. Furthermore, his attorney and he were denied access to “secret evidence” brought against him.

In 1993, Tamimi was falsely arrested on suspicion of having murdered an Israeli settler in Beit El - an allegation of which he was cleared of entirely. During his weeks-long interrogation, he was severely tortured by the Israeli Shin Bet in order to draw a coerced confession from him. During his interrogation, and as a result of the torture he underwent, Tamimi collapsed and had to be evacuated to a hospital, where he laid unconscious for seven days. As a result of the wounds caused by torture, Tamimi was partially paralyzed for several months after his release from the hospital.

At the opening of his previous trial, on June 5, 2011, Tamimi proudly owned up to organizing protests in the village. In a defiant speech before the court he said, "I organized these peaceful demonstrations to defend our land and our people." Tamimi also challenged the legitimacy of the very system which trys him, saying that "Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws [...] that are enacted by authorities which I haven't elected and do not represent me." (See here for Tamimi's full statement).

As one of the organizers of the Nabi Saleh protests and coordinator of the village's popular committee, Tamimi has been the target of harsh treatment by the Israeli army. Since demonstrations began in the village, his house has been raided and ransacked numerous times, his wife was twice arrested and two of his sons were injured; Wa'ed was hospitalized for five days when a rubber-coated bullet penetrated his leg and Mohammed was injured by a tear-gas projectile that was shot directly at him and hit him in the shoulder.

Shortly after demonstrations in the village began, the Israeli Civil Administration served ten demolition orders to structures located in Area C, Tamimi's house was one of them, despite the fact that part of the house was built in 1965 and the rest in 2005.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Palestinian activists stage BDS action against Israeli supermarket in Occupied West Bank - 4 arrested, many injured

Dear friends,
on Wednesday (Palestinian time), more than 100 Palestinian activists joined by international and Israeli activists staged a BDS action in the Occupied West Bank. The action was held at the entrance of an Israeli supermarket in an illegal Israeli settlement, just north of Ramallah.

The Israeli Occupation Forces brutally attacked the demonstration and four Palestinian activists were arrested, including my good friend Bassem Tamimi, who is one of the leaders of the Nabi Saleh Popular Committee against the Occupation. Bassem recently spent 13 months in prison for the "crime" of organising non-violent, unarmed demonstrations in his village against the continued stealing of village land by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish and against Israel's ongoing occupation.
According to the latest reports from Nabi Saleh, Bassem and the other activists are currently being held in Ofer military prison and will be brought before a military occupation court tomorrow. According to the reports his medical condition is not as severe as first thought (the PSCC report states that he received broken ribs. It has not been clarified if his ribs were broken or not but simply it was not as bad as first thought).
I have included below the media release issued by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee on the action and photos from ActiveStills, Tamimi Press and from other activists at the protest. 


Also included below is a video of the action by Nabi Saleh videographer, Bilal Tamimi from Tamimi Press.

You can also watch (click here) a video I made last year about the struggle in Nabi Saleh, which includes interviews with both Bassem and Naji Tamimi, who were both arrested shortly after this video was made. Naji, who is also a good friend, also spent a year in prison also for the "crime" of opposing Israel's occupation.
You can also keep updated with what is happening in Nabi Saleh by following the Nabi Saleh Solidarity page on Facebook here and by visiting the Nabi Saleh Solidarity web blog here

In solidarity, Kim

 Rami Levi BDS protest. Video by Bilal Tamimi, Tamimi Press


video

Rami Levi BDS protest. Video by Israel Puterman
[For some reason I couldn't link the original video from youtube here. 
You can access the original on Youtube here ]
***

Press release
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Palestinian activists protest at Rami Levi settlement’s supermarket

Activists called for the boycott of occupation and its products. Four activists were detained and several injuries due to soldiers’ brutality.

This morning, more than 100 Palestinians, joined by number of international activists staged an action protest at the entrance of Rami Levi’s supermarket in Sha’ar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah, to protest occupation and settler terror. They entered the market and walked up and down the aisles chanting for freedom and waving Palestinians flags.


As activists exited the building, about forty policemen and soldiers were waiting outside, they attacked physically the demonstrators and fired stun grenades at them, causing several injuries, two of which were taken by ambulance to the hospital.Four people, including Basim Tamimi, the head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh, were beaten and arrested by Israeli police. Tamimi’s ribs were broken and several Palestinians were injured. 

 Protesters called for the boycott of occupation and all its products, and stressed that “as long as there is no justice to Palestinians, Israeli and settler daily life can’t continue on as normal.”

For pictures see activestills http://www.flickr.com/photos/activestills/8118648565/in/photostream/ and here, here, here and here

Two of those arrested were Palestinians including Bassem Tamimi in addition to two international activists, an American and Polish.


The protest was part of Popular Struggle Committees’ actions to protest the occupation and settlers terror against Palestinians. Last week about 50 Palestinian activists blocked the Apartheid Road 443 (known as Modi’in, which passes on West Bank lands, connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem). The road was blocked for about 30 minutes to Israeli and settler traffic.
--

 Photo by ActiveStills
  Photo by ActiveStills
  Photo by ActiveStills
  Photo by ActiveStills
  Photo by ActiveStills






 Photo by Elo B
Photo by Tamimi Press

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ESTELLE UPDATE: 11 unarmed activists remain in Israeli prisons; freed Israeli activists accuse Israeli military of brutalising unarmed passengers on Gaza-bound boat

Dear friends,
please find below some updates on the Estelle activists from both Israeli activists, progressive websites and also video footage released by some of the Estelle activists.

Tali Shapiro, an activist with Anarchists Against the Wall and the BDS Boycott from Within campaign, who attended the court hearings of the Israeli activists reported at the time of the hearings that the Israeli state attempted to charge the Israeli activists on board the Esteel with " violating Disengagement Law, incitement, incitement to rebellion and aiding the enemy".  Tali noted that the "Prosecution demands holding the Israeli Estelle passengers for another 5 days".

However, most of the charges were dropped against the Israeli activists and they were released.  The Israeli military has repeatedly stated they used no violence against the passengers of the Estelle, however, activists have reported that they were in fact brutalised by the Israeli Occupation Forces when the Israeli navy illegally boarded the Estelle.   According to the activists, the IOF used taser guns against the passengers and at least one man, a Greek MP, was beaten by the Israeli military.   For more information on this, see the AIC article below:

The international activists were separated from the Israeli activists. Several of the international activists have already been "expelled" from Israel.  However, eleven others remain in Israeli prisons.

According to Tali's most recent update: 
Estelle passengers still in Israel's prison: The Finnish ship's captain, 6 Swedish, 3 Norwegian and an ex-Canadian parliament member. They suffered severe army violence and the lawyers report marks on their bodies. Nevertheless they are all in high spirits and send their message to the world: Break the siege! Free Gaza!
Footage shoot by activists has also become available on the internet which shows Israel's first radio contact with the Estelle.  Please see embedded video below.

In solidarity, Kim 

****


Estelle Mission: First radio contact with the Israeli Occupation Forces


 

Israeli activists detained on Estelle released

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 03:55 Swedish Ship to Gaza: Alternative Information Center

Elik Elhanan: excessive force was used against us, without any reason; Electric shocks by taser out of vengeful hatred; A Greek MP was beaten by Shabak Security Service interrogators. 

 estelle 
 The ship Estelle, which Israel took over in international waters (Photo: Ship to Gaza) 

"I am now on my way home, but I keep thinking of my shipmates, my fellow activists from abroad who are still imprisoned under harsh conditions and undergo interrogation by the Shabak Security Service, among them Parliament Members from several countries," said Elik Elhanan, one of the Israeli activists who had sailed aboard the Gaza-bound Swedish ship "Estelle". Today, the court ordered his release and that of two other detained Israelis, Yonatan Shapira and Reut Mor. "At first they tried to charge us with all kinds of very serious felonies, such as 'aiding the enemy'. The court rejected this out of hand. Today they tried an article on the law books called "Attempted infiltration into a part of the Land of Israel which is not part of the State of Israel" (sic). But the court threw out this charge, too". The detained activists were represented by Attorney Gaby Lasky and her team, who have considerable experience with human rights cases.

The released detainees were cheerfully greeted by peace activists who arrived at the courtroom, among them Elik Elhanan's  parents - Rami Elhanan and Nurit Peled-Elhanan, who is the daughter of the late Major General Matti Peled. Smadar Elhanan, Elik's sister, was killed in a suicide bombing at the center of Jerusalem – a harsh experience which made surviving family members all the more determined to strive for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, so as to prevent further casualties on either side.

"I have gone though difficult days, but I certainly do not regret sailing on that boat. I knew what I was getting into" said Elik Elhanan. "During the voyage I made a special contact with Evangelis, a Member of the Greek Parliament who sailed with us. When the Naval Commandos came aboard and while we were blocking their way to the bridge, Evangelis told me we have generated in him a love for the people of Israel and a hope for a better future in the Middle East. Shortly afterwards they separated us. Yesterday evening, when they put Dror Feiler in our cell, he told us that Evangelis had been beaten by the Shabak interrogators. The Shabak lied shamelessly to the Consuls and representatives of foreign countries, telling them that their citizens and MPs were being treated well." Dror Feiler, who was born in Israel and whose mother Pnina lives in Kibbutz Yad Hana, gave up his Israeli citizenship after moving to Stockholm, and was therefore separated most of the time from the Israeli detainees.

"They used a completely disproportional amount of force against us" continues Elhanan. "When the Navy arrived to take us over, Yonatan Shapira counted no less than fifteen vessels surrounding us on all sides. Large and small ships and boats, a ship carrying a helicopter, as well as the Zodiacs of the Naval Commandos. Fifteen armed naval vessels against one small civilian boat carrying games for the children of Gaza. We must have disturbed very much the Navy and those who give orders to the Navy.

When they came aboard and we blocked their way, the soldiers knew exactly who I was. They shouted in Hebrew: 'Elhanan, you will pay for your Leftism!' and used the taser to give me electric shocks. Even after they completed their takeover of the boat, they continued to use the taser and administer more shocks. But if they think they could deter me and those who sailed with me, they are mistaken. The siege of Gaza is an ongoing crime and it must be ended. We will continue the struggle".  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Israel boards & seizes Swedish Gaza-bound ship, the Estelle

Dear friends,
no doubt many of you have been following the journey of the activists aboard the Swedish ship (under Finnish flag) the Estelle which has been preparing to try and break the siege of Gaza carrying humanitarian aid.
 
 
Reports have come from the Estelle that she was being surrounded by the Israeli navy earlier today at around 10.15 am central European time (approximately 7.15pm Melbourne time).
 
An update from the Estelle on the Swedish Ship to Gaza website noted:
According to Dror Feiler, spokesperson for Ship to Gaza Sweden, Estelle was attacked at 10.15 AM CET. Five or six military vessels surrounded Estelle. Soldiers wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took place on international waters: N31 26 E33 45
According to Israeli media reports the ship has now been boarded and seized by Israel.
Please find below an interview with the media spokesperson for the Ship to Gaza given to Al Jazeera just as the Estelle was being surrounded and the subsequent article on the boarding of the Estelle.
 
in solidarity, Kim
 
 
 
Gaza-bound aid ship boarded by Israeli forces

Organisers of ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists seeking to reach Gaza say Israeli soldiers have boarded vessel.

 20 Oct 2012: Al Jazeera

A ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade on Gaza has "come under attack"
shortly after being approached by Israeli vessels, a spokeswoman said.

"The Estelle is now under attack - I have just had a message from them by phone," Victoria Strand, a Stockholm-based spokeswoman for the Ship to Gaza Sweden campaign told the AFP news agency on Saturday.


According to Dror Feiler, another spokesperson, the Estelle, whose passengers include five parliamentarians from Europe and a former Canadian politician, was attacked at around 08:15 GMT.

"Five or six military vessels surrounded the Estelle. Soldiers wearing masks are now trying to board the ship. The attack took place on international water: N31 26 E33 45," Feiler said.
The Israeli military confirmed that the ship was boarded, after first denying that they had attacked or boarded it.

"A short while ago, Israeli navy soldiers boarded Estelle, a vessel which was en route to the Gaza Strip, attempting to break the maritime security blockade," it said in a statement.
It said that the Finnish-flagged vessel was being led to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.
The Estelle, the latest ship to try to break Israel's blockade on Gaza as part of the 'Freedom Flotilla' movement, set sail from Naples in southern Italy.

Luigi de Magistris, the mayor of Naples, met with members of the crew during a visit to the Estelle in the city's port.

The Estelle, whose voyage is being organised by an international pro-Palestinian coalition, is carrying humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip.

There are 17 activists from around the world on board, including passengers and crew from Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden and the US.

Monday, October 15, 2012

REBLOG: 'The Banality of Apartheid': A tour of Israel and a visit to Occupied Bethelem during Operation Days of Penitence

Dear friends,
my apologies for not blogging for so long.  Unfortunately, the last month has been dominated by both work and study and I have had little time for anything else.  I hope now to rectify this and resume more regular blogging. To get things started once again, I am reblogging a post from my 2004 blog, Live from Occupied Palestine. 

This post was written in the midst of the 17 day Israel assault on Gaza known as"Operation Days of Penitence".   The assault took place between September 30 until October 16, 2004 and took its name from the assault was chosen to reflect the fact that it coincided with the Jewish religious holiday of  Yom Kippur.

As I noted in my last reblog, more than 130 Palestinians were killed, including approximately 30 children.  At the time, it was the largest Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) assault on Gaza since the start of the Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000. During the assault, Israel sent in an estimated 200 armoured vehicles into Palestinian towns, village and densely populated refugee camps.  The IOF  launched regular raids into civilian areas, carrying out extrajudicial assassinations and firing on Palestinian targets from the air and ground.  During the Operation, villages in Gaza were under total siege and much of the Gazan infrastructure was destroyed, including schools, businesses and public works.  The IOF severed sewage, water and electricity lines and also destroyed large sways of agricultural land.   During the operation, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Beit Hanoun, Izbet Beit Hanoun and parts of Jabalia camp  were under siege. Many thousands of civilians were unable to leave their homes.


The following entry recounts a 5 day period in which myself and another team mate visited an number of Israeli cities inside the Green Line.  I recall the experience being totally surreal, not only because of the stark contrast between life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and inside the Green Line, but also because of the devasting bombing of Gaza.  During the five day period, the thought of what was happening in Gaza was rarely far from my thoughts. It coloured and moulded the way I experienced the cities and places we visited. I found it hard to reconcile the bizarre banality of 'normalcy' I was to experience in those 5 days, with what went on every single day under Israel's occupation in the West Bank and the brutality and the absolute horror of what was happening in Gaza.  I recall watching Israeli families strolling along the beach promenades and I could not understand how they could carry on as if nothing was happening just 45 to 60 minutes away in Gaza.  

When I look back at this blog entry now, one part of me finds its strange to have taken the trip we took at this time but the other recalls that these 5 days were important because they allowed me to reach a level of clarity, both politically and emotionally, that I had not yet achieved.  It was during these 5 days, due to the accumulated experiences over the previous month in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and due to my experience in the Green Line, that I came to the realisation for the first time that Israel was an apartheid state. It helped clarify my thinking about the occupation and the Israeli state and it solidified my commitment even more to the Palestinian cause and struggle. 

in solidarity, Kim 


***

Touring Israel and visit to Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem 

Original blog here

October 2004

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 throw stones and as it is IWPS’ [policy] 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 contend 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.