al-Bireh 19 March 2003
As the world pinpoints its focus on Iraq the daily horrors of Israeli occupation seem minuscule in comparison. Nevertheless, for those that have a deeper understanding of this region the real foundation of instability is known and it is based in Israeli’s illegal occupation and the UN’s historic refusal to implement the tens of resolutions demanding Israel bring this misery to an end.
The latest round of my personal experience with occupation was this afternoon. At around 9:30am over 80-90 fully armed Israeli soldiers converged on my shopping center project. A project that only yesterday was in the local papers for taking another step forward despite tremendous odds - see: http://www.apic-pal.com/html/news170303.html.
The soldiers entered the project and ordered all of my staff and construction workers to confine ourselves to the basement of the project where our offices are located. No one was allowed to enter or exit. We learned that the supermarket part of the project was being used as a base for the soliders as they searched a university that is adjacent to the project. As every student was searched and checked, several were handcuffed and brought to our supermarket and lined up on their knees while under Israeli detainment.
Almost three hours later two soldiers entered our offices and requested that I call all my staff to the front of the office, which I did. After spot checking some of the names of my staff we were told that we would not be allowed to leave for a few more hours while they “used” our building.
At noon a Palestinian that was to be interviewed for a job today frantically called to advise that she was on time for her interview but the Israeli army would not let her get to our office. With 60% unemployment here, you can imagine how important this interview was for this young girl. We reassured her we would reschedule.
Next, I called my Board Chairman who lives in Hebron to advise him of the situation, only to learn that he was home, for a second straight day, under Israeli military curfew with tanks roaming the streets around his home. I’m not sure, but I think we comforted each other knowing that our freedoms were both being held hostage for actions we had no role in, or knowledge of.
At 1:30 Kathy and Bill Christison called. They were scheduled to visit the project while visiting from the US. They were not able to get close either and I had to give them a rain check on the lunch I had promised the day before.
Given we have several hundred thousand dollars of newly installed glass on our building and another several hundred thousand dollars of supermarket and children play equipment in the building I feared for the worse - a rampage of destruction - as all we could hear were shuffling footsteps coming and going on the floor above us. A call to a friend at the US Consulate Economic Division to request support in registering a complaint with the Israeli government was well received. To give credit where credit is due, I must note that the Consulate staff person followed up and took great interest in this ordeal and did try to help, albeit we are all helpless in the face of this occupation. We also registered our complaints with the Israeli commanding officer on site and tomorrow we will file formal complaints with the Israeli Military Governor of our region. We have no illusion that Israel cares about the $10.2 we have invested, but for history’s sake we will make our case.
All of this was only today. I have no room or mental capacity right now to talk of other events of the this week; the war preparations, the killing of a fellow American citizen in Gaza (see below), the positive news of the appointment of our first ever Prime Minster, our efforts to recruit tenants to our shopping PLAZA, my ISP being the victim of a vicious cyber attack, news of a health problem of a friend in an Israeli jail, my daughter Areen nagging that I pick her up from school tomorrow so we can buy mom a mother’s day gift (she is not fully registering that if the war starts we may be confined to our homes under Israeli curfew like one year ago April when Sharon’s tanks came rolling in), Areen’s question a few days ago of why Israeli TV were showing gas masks being distributed and we are not getting any and why Israeli’s are taping there windows with plastic, etc, etc.
I know some of the above may just be normal issues, but when you draw a line on your map between Baghdad and Tel Aviv and you find your home on that line, your perspective of world and daily events drastically change.
In solidarity with the people of Iraq and the leaders of France and Germany,