And the occupation goes on…

The family of martyr Amin al-Kamel’s destroyed home in the Jenin Refugee Camp. The home was recently rebuilt with aid from the United Arab Emirates after it was destroyed during the Army incursion into the camp in April 2002. (Matthew Cassel)

All over the world things are constantly changing, but in Palestine things stay the same.

Home demolitions are a regular tactic of the Israeli occupying army. On a recent trip to the northern West Bank city of Jenin, I met with a family in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Their home was destroyed for the second time in just over two years this time because one of their 11 children was “wanted” by the Army. In April of 2002 their home was also destroyed during the invasion of Jenin Camp where over 50 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed. Their home was rebuilt over the past year and recently completed with nearly 30 million (US) in aid being donated by the United Arab Emirates to help rebuild the camp.

In the week leading up to November 7th, the Israeli army made two trips to the family’s home looking for their son. On one of the occasions they came in the middle of the day and arrested the father. He described what happened,

“It was Ramadan and I was fasting. They came to my home, blindfolded me and forced me into a jeep in front of my children. The ride was rough and I was unable to sit comfortably. I would fall over and the soldiers would hit me in the stomach because they knew I was fasting. When we arrived at a military base I immediately recognized the commander. He apologized for the soldiers if they hurt me on the ride and then he asked where my son was. I would not tell him. He said if I didn’t tell them where my son was then bad things will happen to him and your family.”

On November 7th the army returned to the home at 2:30 in the morning. They gave the family 20 minutes to contact their son and force him to surrender or else their home would be destroyed. The family refused to contact their son, and as promised their home was destroyed and 13 more Palestinians again became homeless.

Later that same evening the family’s second eldest son, Amin, a 23-year-old police officer in the Palestinian Authority was driving with a few friends around Jenin. As they stopped at a fueling station Israeli special forces — or death squads — driving a car with Palestinian plates and disguised as Palestinians drove up and executed the men. A witness working at the station said he saw Amin crawling from the scene after he had already been shot more than once. As he tried to get away a special forces soldier came up from behind and shot him in the back of the head.

This one family of refugees, forced from their home in Haifa in 1948, living ever since in 3rd world conditions as refugees in a West Bank camp, occupied since 1967, and now they have lost their home (for a second time in two and a half years) and their son in less than 24 hours.

A young resident of the Jenin Refugee Camp walks past martyr posters of Amin al-Kamel who was executed by Israeli Special Forces on November 7, 2004. (Matthew Cassel)

At the same time I was in Jenin, I found out a friend of mine in the West Bank was arrested and placed under administrative detention. When I called another friend to confirm the news and offer my apologies she laughed and said it’s no problem, it’s normal. I laughed and joked with her until I hung up the phone and thought about what we were talking about. It wasn’t funny.

My friend, who worked in between 70-80 hrs per week in a small village to make money and try to stay away from the cities where the occupation is perhaps more unavoidable, was taken from his work by the Army. Now he is imprisoned and will spend at least 6 months in administrative detention and will never be charged for any crime or told a valid reason for why he is being held. At the end of the 6 months if they decide to extend his detention another 6 months, they can and often do so never once convicting him of any crime.

While these things happen, who outside Palestine will hear about them? The mainstream international press when covering the conflict never tells of the daily terror attacks by the Israeli army. As media monitoring organizations regularly point out, a major worldwide news provider like the BBC covers events in Palestine and usually never refers to the situation in the territories as “occupation.” Pick up a copy of most international newspapers after a bus bombing and a picture of the blown-up bus will surely be on the front page. Why do few pictures or even mentions of blown-up houses ever make the paper?

The actions by the Israeli military in the occupied territories speak for themselves. If the mainstream press will not expose the reality on the ground then it’s up to us to find the truth on our own. Anyone who has visited Palestine can describe the real terror they witnessed caused by the occupation. The stories of killing, humiliation, and destruction will only continue until liberation comes and Palestine is free.

Matthew Cassel is a Palestine solidarity activist and independent journalist from Chicago. Currently he is in Palestine working on a photo/writing project documenting the situation.