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First-Hand Reports from Israel/Palestine

Another Faceless Crime

By Jonson
International Solidarity Movement
December 2, 2004

When I look back upon my experience staying in a house that was set for demolition I only think of the kind eyed father crippled by Israeli fire two years ago, the mother numb from the loss of her son, periodically asking tentative questions in Arabic and the friend sitting opposite us in the newly rented family house staring incessantly at the wall, thinking of past times with his young friend, in between handing us glasses of coke, an atmosphere of loss hung over our uncomfortable conversation.

The house was decorated with flags of the chosen accomplices, one of the prominent armed groups here, and pictures of the newly martyred 16 year old boy Amer Abdullah, who having seen his father crippled and his uncle killed by the armed forces representing the Israeli people decided to end his life, to take him away from the suffering of which he had become a part of and of which he was about to perpetrate.

Is it right to blame those who indirectly benefit from other peoples suffering for their suffering? A question I asked myself to not let the immediate feeling of rage take over.

His poster adorns the wall in our apartment, a soft peach background a stark contrast to the dark and harsh colours of other martyr posters. A fitting tribute to a child born in the wrong place. I look at the face of the boy and see the likeness to his father, the meeting eye brows, the Roman nose and I remember the moment when the smiling father finally accepted after all his obsessive sweeping, that he had lost a son and with the explosion, his house.

I pictured the look of terrified innocence I had seen earlier as I heard him weep uncontrollably into his jacket. I pressed my body against his and offered all my warmth........

We heard that a house was going to be demolished after we had got back from an emotion sapping demonstration in Budrus, Ramalla. Askar refugee camp, an adjoining camp of which I had only heard through hearing of another man killed. You never seem to hear of places because of something good in this place, only locations, of tragic events.

Unknowing, we were scared at the co-ords. Nervousness and the finality of it all, embassies were to be called, things packed................

Everybody left together adding to the anxiousness. A posse walking the eerily deserted streets. We were told jaesh were in Nablus which didn’t help our feeling of vulnerability on the wide empty street. Such a contrast to the usually chaotic taxi filled roads.

It’s scary when your senses are allowed to rest and your brain diverts its energies to thought.A totally unrelated talk with my sweetheart took my mind softly away from everything; the eerie streets now became beautifully calm.

The warm handshakes were pleasant to feel against the mentally cold night. We entered the camp from the main wide entrance and Into the labyrinth of tight winding streets The lamps sent a circular artificial orange glow onto the tightly packed walls.A group of seated men outside the door greeted us’As Salaam, Al Akuum’The first thing we noticed was that the house was as empty as the streets, No furniture, No identity,No life,Just a shell, ready for demolition.

No distraught mother,
No anxious father,
No bereaved relatives,
Just a feeling of inevitability and acceptance,
Cold calmness.

Of the little that we were expecting it was solum faces and depressive talk, the atmosphere of normality in this situation was scary, the neighbours just as inquisitive as in any situation you encounter here. Suffering has become a part, a huge part of these people’s lives, so much so that this completely unnatural, violent situation is taken as utterly normal.

For once I was grateful for the liquid sugar tea which was always on offer as my eyes began to drop. A raw red cabbage was chopped into small brain like segments and given.The father entered the front room, bent over sweeping the empty house; the neighbour rolled his eyes in pity. He looked up with his wide, kind eyes and a huge grin on his face energetically offering to show us the empty kitchen, pointing down he showed us the newly tiled floor, two months ago redecorated, the translation came.

‘What can I do?’
A shrug of the shoulders understood in any language. The total control of a people by another.
What can they do?
Pick up a gun, be dead by 20?
What can people do to protect their families and home and not let their humanity be taken along with the control of their lives?
How dare Israel put these people in such a position?

And so they came and at gun point ordered us out, and on the fathers say so we went.

I looked at the father’s terrified eyes, the look of a child flooding back into them as the soldiers repeatedly tried to grab him. I felt such anger at this humiliation. How dare you terrorize this grown man! Go away, so far that you cannot humiliate these people.

They coldly marched in and out of the house. And then I saw the system that the Israeli army operates every time they enter a city or camp for military operations, the use of human shields. Even the word comes out like vomit passing through the lips. The act of using another human being as a shield. The forced first line of defence is not armor or vests but a human being, flesh and blood. I saw the neighbour who spoke good English and who we talked openly with all through the night about his kids, hopes and life here, being marched in front of the soldiers with a gun to his back.

I let out of sound of dispair as the life of a human being was being toyed with and cheapened to a worthless piece of armor. Our new friends look assured us, the scariest thing was the comfortableness he emitted, just another day as a Palestinian, being used as a human shield.When I spoke to him later he said this had happened to him on numerous occasions. Another man being used, who we glanced at, gave us a look of bitter humiliation.

They coldly continued their calculated military operations, passing like ablanket of nothingness wiping away humanity.A man walked past us with no gun and tightly pressed clothes.I felt the coolness of this man as he strode past having just one objective, to blow up another nameless house.

They left as they came, before the sun rose and uncovered their darkness.

“Collective, collective punishment”.

Yesterday we went back to the house to take pictures and document the aftermath. What we found was to push collective punishment to extreme levels.

We met Abu Ahmed and his big smile in the newly rented apartment he and his family were now living in. They seemed comfortable enough but not settled. Ahmeds smile dropped as he told us how the soldiers had come in the night and in front of him used clubs and gun buts to beat four of his five remaining sons.

He continued to tell us how they were dragged outside and stuffed into the back of the jeeps and driven away. The soldiers then came into the house and began to upturn beds and couches and left after 15 minutes. The most worrying aspect the mother told us was that they didn’t know where their eldest son had been taken.Often men and woman are taken away from their families to one of the many detention camps that dot Israel and not seen for months. Not knowing were your son is,how he is being treated,if and when you will ever see him again. To all mothers reading this, you must understand the wrenching pain of this.

The neighbours on all three sides of the house had the connecting walls destroyed and two of the neighbours are thinking of moving out because of the unsteadiness of the wall and the real likely hood that the wall could fall down on top of them.One a 75 year old lady who lives alone said to us that she didn’t haveenough money to move and would have to risk it and stay. The wall which has huge cracks and structural damage could easily fall crushing all inside. The other neighbour who has 4 children and had just redecorated his kitchen was packing up to leave when we visited.

Just to summarize who has been affected by Israel’s insistence on implementing its illegal policy of collective punishment:

  • Family of nine lose their only home
  • 75 year old woman forced to live under threat of unsteady wall, possible crushing of home and possible death.
  • Family of five forced to move for fear of unsteady wall, get no monetary return on partially destroyed home
  • Four brothers of martyr beaten and arrested, unknown return date.
  • friend of friend of martyr beaten and arrested for suspected aiding a suicide bomber.

People do not kill themselves for no reason.The violence that penetrates every aspect of society here and that children are forced to grow up in, seeing friends shot dead, watching as your father is shot by a tank, hearing that your uncle has been killed.

You give up trying to find answers as to why
And starting looking for ways to deal with it
Your survival mechanism kicks in
Your are forced to fight it
To look for outlets for your frustration.
The extreme frustration and helplessness that I have felt here is
100 times if you are doing more than visiting.
Love to you

Read more first-hand reports.

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The History of Terrorism
Nonviolent and Military Resistance

ICAHD Video on Home Demolitions

B’Tselem Video on Home Demolitions

British TV Documentary – Dispatches: The Killing Zone

VIDEO: Palestinians Document Settler Violence

VIDEO: West Bank attack filmed

Video – Gaza: A humanitarian implosion

Video: Old Palestinian Man Describes Being Shot

Video – The Easiest Targets: The Israeli Policy of Strip Searching Women and Children

Audio Interview – Psychology of Suicide Bombings

Video – Soldiers Explode a Portion of a Palestinian Home, Killing the Mother

Video – Soldiers Force a Palestinian to Play Violin at Roadblock

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More on Collective Punishment/Terrorism

Additional Resources

Documentary – Jerusalem: An Occupation Set in Stone?

HRW Report: Razing Rafah

Amnesty International – Torn Apart: Families Split by Discriminatory Policies

Amnesty International – Law Quashes the Right of Israeli Arab Citizens to Family Life

Electronic Intifada – Prison Experience as a Normal Part of Life

The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

Back to a Routine of Torture – Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees during Arrest, Detention and Interrogation – September 2001 - April 2003

Amnesty International – Israeli Settlers Wage Campaign of Intimidation

Booklet – ‘No Exit’

Amnesty International – Under the Rubble

Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance

Charter of the United Nations


The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD)

The Rebuilding Alliance

Americans for Middle East Understanding

End the Occupation Coalition

Al Awda: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

International Solidarity Movement

Secular Peace Groups

American Muslims for Palestine

A Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT)

Sabeel – Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

Friends of Sabeel, North America

More Religious Peace Groups

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