The end of Ramadan

Above: Palestinian mother Zuhoor Al Atrash at a demonstration in Jerusalem. Zuhoor and her husband Yusef, residents of Al-Sendas — a Palestinian rural community just south of Hebron — have had their home demolished 3 times by the Israeli military. They are currently rebuilding once again, for their family of 10, not including the wife of their newly married eldest son who has also come to live with them. Photo courtest of CPT.

On this, the final day of Ramadan 2002, Israel continues its decades old illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians in the West Bank city of Khalil (Hebron), under effective curfew for years. Apache helicopter missiles fired into Gaza City. Israeli bulldozers continued to raze houses in the Gaza Strip and thousands of Palestinians were held under another day of curfew throughout the occupied West Bank and parts of the Gaza Strip.

When 12 Israeli soldiers were killed in the Palestinian town of Khalil (Hebron) last week, the Israeli government lied to the international community, saying that worshippers were killed. The dissembling makes Israel out to be the victim, makes it falsely about innocents being killed, makes this about religion instead of politics. This is a tactic that Israel has employed for 50 years, making this the most successful propaganda campaign in our history. The illegal Israeli settlers in Khalil are protected by 2,000 Israeli soldiers. Baruch Goldstein, an American trained doctor and settler, murdered 29 Muslims at the Ibrahimi Mosque on the 25th of February, 1994. The Muslims were prostrating in prayer when he killed them. He was killed in the process and a special tomb was set up in his honor. Thousands of Zionists have come to pay homage to him and consider his crime an act of heroism.

In Khalil, Israel has issued 15 demolition orders to Palestinian family homes. They have 48 hours to vacate. Many of these families are poor and have nowhere else to go. The purpose of the demolitions is to create more space for illegal Israeli settlers and to further the transfer mission of Palestinians out of occupied Palestine. In Khalil there are 400 settlers and 170,000 Palestinians. This is a Palestinian city, H2 held under curfew for years, where 2,000 Israeli soldiers and 400 settlers are armed and expanding.

At breakfast on the 27th and most important night of Ramadan, a wide-eyed girl told me about what happened to her friends yesterday. “They are homeless on this night,” she said, “only staying with others now.”

Their home was near an illegal Israeli settlement in the north of the Gaza Strip. The building was five stories high, 2 families per floor. Israeli soldiers yelled through a loudspeaker, “Get out of your houses now.” Those who complied are alive and homeless. The one who did not, a deaf man who could not hear the shouting, is dead.

These constant house demolitions are not accidents and are not responses to any Palestinian act. From listening to Israeli “defense” minister Netanyahu speak, one would think that the deaf man was plotting a Palestinian defense to Israel’s occupation, therefore deserved his torturous death. Netanyahu gave a speech about “preventative strikes.” His position is — whether the international community supports the idea or not — random attacks against those not kow-towing visibly enough to the US and Israel are a reality we must accept because Israel and the US will be increasingly engaging in them.

The purpose of house demolitions is to dispose of any evidence that Palestinians exist and to carve more space for the state of Israel. What do the Israeli’s want, they want everything. They are not stopping until they have taken all of Palestine. And a shared secular state will only contribute to this, but will have many who are unaware, cheering. What hope will the refugees have then, of their Right of Return.

With the frequency of settlement building, we can see that one reality is being replaced by another’s mythology. Soon the facts-on-the-ground in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip will represent an Israel as has happened inside the ‘48 line. Palestinian towns were razed and Israelis who live in towns on top of them deny their existence.

A friend went to his former village where his family lived for generations before they became refugees. One day he was working in ‘Israel,’ highly contentious employment to be sure, and he went to where his house had stood. The man who was in the area denied even the possibility that Palestinians had lived in what is now referred to as Tel Aviv, where many refugees in Rafah are from. The Israeli said, “no this is my land and only mine.” My friend showed him the key to his family’s home.

Two friends were in a park listening to an Israeli school teacher lead a group of children around. She told the children that there was no water on this land until Israel was created and that no one lived here before.

The infrastructure and life blood of occupied Palestine is being destroyed. Today is the final day of Ramadan, the end of a holy month of fasting that now brings three days of feasting.

Today in Gaza City, a US-made Apache helicopter fired four missiles into the Ministry of Agriculture building. Israel forbids Palestinians in many areas of the Gaza Strip from cultivating their own land. A man’s boot was charred into a black mud laying amidst the rubble that had been his room. He was a security guard and had been sleeping at the time.

His wife was already wearing black and is wailing outside near a tree. Three cars are riddled with shrapnel from the missiles and the building is crumbled. Palestinian police gather any scraps of paper that were not completely blown apart in the room. The remaining walls and the door that were blown outside are riddled with holes. Some say this was an assassination that missed its target, that the Israelis were aiming for someone higher up in Fatah. Israeli targeted assassinations, illegal under international law, often miss, killing many sleeping in their homes or passing by on their own streets.

Yesterday near Eretz checkpoint here in the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers opened fire on a group of Palestinian taxi drivers, killing one who sold metre tickets. Last night two Apaches flew low over my building with their lights off. They were close enough to see clearly. Perhaps many others like my friends here, including those in the Ministry of Agriculture, knew that the circling Apaches meant an attack was soon to follow.

But Gaza is a prison. There is nowhere to go to get away. Everything, everyone, here is a target. It’s like the people in Khalil right now with 48 hours notice before Israeli bulldozers demolish their homes. So they have two days to get out, but where to go?

Kristen Ess is a political activist and freelance journalist from New York City, who has lived in the West Bank and Gaza since March 2002, where she does solidarity work and reports for Free Speech Radio news and Left Turn magazine.