Not so disengaged in Burqa

There will be no celebrations in Burqa. This small northern West Bank town of 4,000 should have every reason to revel in the demographic shift imposed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s “Disengagement Plan”: the neighboring Israeli settlement of Homesh was cleared of its residents on August 23. But the reality for Burqa, as well as other Palestinian villages in the areas of the West Bank recently evacuated by Israel, is that little will change. There is no plan to return the land. According to its municipality, Burqa once boasted a population of over 30,000, but numerous pressures induced people to emigrate to Nablus, which lies about 10 km to the south. 

WaPSR Delegation Diary 1: Crossing Bantustans

In March 2005, Dr. Bill Dienst traveled to Palestine and Israel as part of a delegation sponsored by Washington State Physicians for Social Responsibility (WaPSR). The delegation met with prominent Palestinians as well as members of the Israeli peace movement. They also traveled inside the Kiryat Arba’a settlement to hear a prominent member of the settler movement. In the first of a series of articles for EI’s Live from Palestine diaries section, Dr. Dienst describes these meetings. 

Disengagement: "A donkey, a goat and a cow"

The Israeli political and military establishment didn’t just put a donkey, a goat and a cow into the Palestinian lands they put in the whole zoo. This morning I received an e-mail from a friend in Washington D.C. He expressed his sympathy for the Israeli settlers who he had watched being removed from their homes. It is his birthday today. I thought that rather then e-mail him a moral lesson all the way from the Gaza Strip or tell him the stories of the 30,000 Palestinians who lost their homes during this Intifada I would send him an old Jewish proverb that sums up the situation in Palestine one week after the start of the redeployment. 

Disengagement diary

There is certainly something in the air. Gunfire, cheering - general celebrations. Outside the al Shawa Convention Centre in the heart of el-Rimal distract of Gaza City there are marches - last night by Islamic Jihad - to celebrate the redeployment of the Israeli military. On Friday Fatah held another demonstration in Gaza City. Hamas have been practising for redeployment all week by letting off random explosions. Each side is trying to claim the redeployment for its own. The PLO Flag Shop in Gaza City is decked out with special t-shirts celebrating what they call “withdrawal”. There are Palestinian flags hanging outside the shop with “FREE GAZA” printed on them in black. 

Fire unextinguished

Once a lively city, the Nablus of today is the victim both of geography and racist geopolitics. With its back to the range of hills and few channels of intercourse with the rest of the country, the Israeli military has had little difficulty in isolating the town. A series of checkpoints choke Nablus economically and culturally, stifling what has traditionally been one of Palestine’s most important urban centers. As one of the centers of resistance, both violent and nonviolent, as well as a bastion of Islamist support in the West Bank, Nablus has earned pride of place near the top of the Israeli government’s hit list and has been targeted with great resentment and vitriol. 

Another day of protest against the Wall

Time is so short and my experiences are so intense I fear that I cannot fully convey the gravity of daily life and what I am witnessing here. It especially worries me that the world’s eyes are myopically focused on the pullout in Ghaza, the anti-disengagement protesters, most of whom are illegal Israeli settlers from the West Bank. Yesterday I took part in a non-violent demonstration in three villages of the Salfit area outside of Nablus. Salfit villages have been experiencing increased violence by the IDF throughout the region. Demonstrations in Marda and Immatin have been met with army incursions, tear gas, and rubber bullets. In Salfit, a 16-year-old boy was killed for throwing stones at a jeep. 

When Will it End?

I spent much of the day talking to Palestinians trying to cross the Netzarim checkpoint today. It is a 6m deep trench dug deep into Gaza’s coastal road, which has in recent days been ripped apart by nocturnal armoured bulldozers that come out from behind the lone sniper in he distance, and dissappear before dawn when their work is done. The checkpoint, along with one further south at Abo Holi, has divided Gaza into three isolated segments for over five days now: Rafah and Khan Yunis in the south; dair al-Balah, Maghazi, and Nseirat refugee camps in the central Gaza Strip; and Gaza city, Beit Hanun, and Jabaliya in the north. 

One year on: Protest against the Wall in Bil'in

Yesterday I woke up early and headed for a small village in the West Bank, outside of Ramallah, called Bil’in. I arrived earlier than I had expected so I wandered around trying to see where the new portion of the Apartheid Wall will be built to encircle this town and imprison its inhabitants. The people in the community created an enormous justice scale with a coffin beneath stating “Rest in Peace.” When we arrived at the bottom of this hill we were met by the Israeli army who were in full riot gear in a line in front of us. They had their weapons pointed at us and there were also quite a few filming us and photographing us. This protest in Bil’in is a weekly occurrence. 

Welcome to Costa-del-Gaza

The two sides of present-day Gaza are the poverty-stricken Palestinian population and the Israeli settlers who control about 45% of the land. But neither population is united; the divisions within each are as real as those between them. And the Israeli soldiers present in numbers to protect the settlers are now charged with overseeing their withdrawal - and if necessary, eviction - by August. The settlers are far from homogeneous. They include religious Zionists from Hebron, growing in numbers in the southern part of the Gaza settlement blocs, who believe that disengagement is a denial of the will of God; but there are also social-welfare recipients with their bags packed, who are ready to go upon payment of substantial compensation packages. What will Gaza become after Israeli occupation? Eóin Murray reports on embattled Jewish settlers and Palestinian fears. 

The Crushed Citizen

I was invited to attend a reception in Ramallah yesterday by my former scholarship sponsors, the Academy for Educational Development. They said they’d take care of the permit, though no guarantees were made. A few days ago I received word my permit was one of several that were approved. “Congratulations, you’re going to Ramallah.” I am excited-it’s been 4 years since I’ve been to Ramallah. Though it is only an hour away, permits are rarely if ever issued to Gazan Palestinians wishing to travel to the West Bank. I call up all my friends, relatives, and colleagues there. I even wonder if I can make it to Jerusalem on Friday.