Atef Saad

Warning bells are ringing

On June 4, dozens of attorneys refused to show up to courtrooms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in what they called a “one-day warning strike”. In a statement released by the Palestinian Bar Association, the lawyers said they were protesting assaults on what they described as “the three arms of justice”: the judges, public prosecuting attorneys, and defense lawyers. The statement decried legal professionals’ “unsafe working environment” blamed on increased vigilantism and the failure of the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and executive branches to protect the judicial system. 

West Bank wasteland

At the beginning of April 2002, the Israeli army reoccupied a number of cities in the West Bank as part of a wide-scale military operation dubbed “Defensive Shield”. The goal of the operation, as stated by the Israeli government, was to “eliminate the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism and to prevent suicide bombers from executing their operations in the heart of Israeli cities inside the Green Line.” At the time, no attention was given to an artillery force that snuck up the hills to a quarry - the largest in the West Bank, which is located in the cradle of a huge hill west of Nablus. “We were shocked when we saw that the quarry was being taken over,” says the director of the quarry, Ihab Abu Shusheh. 

The fugitives of Nablus

On April 1, Amin Abu Warda, 37, sat with his colleagues, tallying votes for the new board of directors at the Balata Refugee Camp Youth Center. Just before midnight, with the group exhausted from the long hours, 15 armed men broke into the room. “It was terrifying,” says Abu Warda. A video of the break-in shows one of the intruders busting up the blackboard scribbled with the number of tallied votes. Another kicked a ballot box, already emptied. A third man confronted an employee who was trying to hide a few remaining and unharmed ballots. At gunpoint, the man was forced to surrender the papers, another ripping them into pieces before firing a bullet at the ceiling and ordering everyone out of the room. 

"Damming" West Bank farmers

Sixty-two-year-old Shafiqa Massoud is, for all intents and purposes, the head of the household. Hers is a typical peasant family that lives in the Qalqilya area directly up against the Green Line. Her husband, 66-year-old Amin Hindi is unemployed due to chronic illness and her four children are all married. In all, her extended family comprises 27 members. The rainy season should have been the best time of the year for farmers like Shafiqa’s family. But in Qalqilya, the season brought more hardship than joy this time around. Israel’s separation barrier, in this area an eight-meter high wall, formed a concrete dam, trapping the water and preventing it from flowing out west. 

Voters flock to polling stations for the first phase of Palestine's municipal elections

“These are the first local elections I have ever participated in,” said Abu Marwan, 72. “I missed the other election in 1976.” He and a friend, Asad Qassem, 74, were sitting outside a grocery store, near the centre of Beit Fourik, a town of some 11,000 inhabitants near Nablus. The two of them were dressed in traditional garb, a lot of it on this cloudy wintry day, and watched the comings and goings at the small but busy intersection. The first phase of the Palestinian municipal elections started this December 23 in 26 municipalities in the West Bank, and Beit Fourik’s townsfolk were out in force. 

"Bombshell" shakes Fateh: Barghouti's candidacy blows race wide open

One thing all agree on is that Marwan Barghouti’s decision to run has blown the presidential race wide open. Opinion polls have him and Mahmoud Abbas more or less neck and neck, and among the other eight candidates at least two, acting speaker of the Legislative Council Hasan Khreisheh and Mustapha Barghouti both have relatively high public profiles, making the field very competitive. However, some observers fear that the competition and the electoral system will simply lead to the loss of thousands of votes, and weaken the mandate of any elected PA president in the international arena. Atef Saad assesses Barghouti’s candidacy for the Palestine Report

Uncertain times

Many believe that no leader can ever take the place of Yasser Arafat or cross the red lines that he drew: East Jerusalem, the refugee issue, holding armed militias accountable or halting armed resistance under American or Israeli conditions. Palestinians are in agreement, however, that the passing of their legendary leader will leave behind major changes on the political scene and also influence the work of institutions. And even if the Palestinians - whether those in the Authority, official or national institutions or political parties and factions, were able to smoothly get past the first phase, the fact still remains that they all have many difficult and unpredictable challenges ahead. 

Danger: Olive harvest, settlers on the prowl

The olive harvest season is usually a happy occasion for farmers, but Fares Hanani looks ahead to this year’s harvest with trepidation. At the age of 70, he has seen plenty of harvests come and go on the mountainous terrain near Beit Fourik he and his brothers inherited from their father and grandfather, but the last couple of years have been especially difficult. Two years ago, the Israeli government financed the construction of “security zones” around Nablus area settlements, some as wide as 400 meters and all complete with electrified fences and security cameras.