By Daniel Breslau
Week 1,982 of occupation
The IDF spokesperson`s office is not an independent source, nor is it a credible source, given the many documented cases in which the spokesperson has issued fabricated justifications for killings of Palestinian and international civilians. When a civilian is killed, and the only source saying that the civilian was a mortal threat to IDF soldiers is the IDF spokesperson, such claims should be regarded with skepticism. Responsible journalistic practice dictates that such reports should be clearly identified as the IDF spokesperson`s version. Yet the Israeli media, including the respected daily, Ha`aretz, routinely present the army`s version of events as fact. This week there were at least two such events, in which the IDF version may be true, but without independent confirmation, could just as well be self-serving distortion.
On Saturday, May 28, IDF forces opened fire on a civilian vehicle at the village of Araba, near Jenin. The three passengers of the car were hit, and one, Ahmed Mustafa Ameen al-Haj Ahmed (22), later died of his wounds. The IDF claimed that the car`s passengers had fired at an army camp nearby, though no independent sources have confirmed this. Ha`aretz simply printed the IDF account as its own.
On Sunday, May 29, Omar Mahmoud al-Ghafi Hoshiyeh was shot and killed by IDF soldiers near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. Eyewitnesses said that Hoshiyeh had argued with a soldier, after which the soldier shot him. Reports indicate that he was shot at a distance of 50 meters, and was hit seven times. An IDF spokesperson said that Hoshiyeh was charging at soldiers with a knife, and after firing warning shots, the soldiers determined their lives were threatened and opened fire on Hoshiyeh. Despite the eyewitness accounts, which mentioned no warning shots, no knife, and no political affiliations of Hoshyeh, Ha`aretz repeated the IDF spokesperson`s account as fact.
Resistance to the wall continues: Beit Surik and Bil`in
In May, the High Court of Justice ruled that construction of the annexation wall could continue through the lands of the village of Beit Surik. On Sunday, May 29, village residents were joined by Israeli activists and internationals in a non-violent protest. 2500 of the villages 6500 dunums will be confiscated when construction continues.
Demonstrations against the wall continued in Bil`in on Monday, May 30. Protesters brought a mock fence, on which was written, `the wall, over our dead bodies,` while some locked themselves into its metal base. The soldiers had to dismantle the fence in order to remove the protesters. One member of the village protest committee was beaten by soldiers.
Abu Mazen in Washington
On Thursday, May 26, Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), concluded his visit to Washington with a joint press conference with U.S. President, George W. Bush. President Bush`s statement reiterated the official US stance that any deviations from the 1949 armistice lines (the `green line`) could only be made by mutual Israeli-Palestinian agreement in final status negotiations. And Bush called for Israel to halt all settlement construction. He mentioned the Jerusalem area in this context, to refer to Israel`s announced plans to expand the Maaleh Adumim settlement and the E-1 area east of Jerusalem. However, the Bush administration has done nothing thus far to pressure Israel to observe its commitments.
Bush`s statements contradicted the Israeli government`s interpretation of US policy as recognizing the permanence of Israeli soveriegnty over the large settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank. The White House has made it clear that no such recognition has been given.
Bush also committed 50 million US dollars in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, after the US Congress had failed to provide aid desparately needed by the Authority. While not stated publicly in the press conference, Bush has apparently rejected Abu Mazen`s request to move Israel and the Palestinians to permanent status negotiations, including the issues of final boundaries, refugees, and Jerusalem.
Silwan: transfer as restoration
The Jerusalem Municipality has intitiated proceedings to demolish 88 houses in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, and to evict their 1000 residents. The city engineer, Uri Shetrit, has claimed that the houses are illegal. The city intends to build a national archeological park on the site. Meir Margalit from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions reports that the residents were offered relocation to Beit Hanina - to land confiscated from other Palestinians under the infamous `Absentee Law`.
On June 1, Deputy Interior Minister Ruhama Avraham announced that the ministry had given its approval to the move. She stated that charges had been filed already against 40 of the families in Silwan, and that 40 more charges are expected. The demolition orders, she added, have no connection to the Jerusalem municipality`s plans to build an archeological park on the site. Addressing the Knesset, she suggested that many of the residentes of Silwan`s Al Bustan neighborhood had infiltrated from Hebron, and could hide `terrorist elements.` Dr. Menashe Amiram, an expert on urban planning in Jerusalem, quoted in Ha`aretz, argued that the houses in Al Bustan were legally contructed based on a pre-1967 Jordanian plan, and that it is the law that challenges their legality, which, under international law, is illegal.
Settlers on the offensive
Settlers in the Gaza Strip have established a new outpost in the abandoned Maoz Hayam hotel in Neve Dekalim. An operations center has been set up in the hotel, for coordinating opposition to the planned evacuation of Gaza Strip settlers. Settler leaders at the site have vowed to bring thousands of supporters into the area, despite plans to close all border crossings into Gaza to non-settlers.
The settlers in and around Hebron have continued their almost daily attacks on Palestinian civilians, homes, and shops. On Thursday, May 26, settlers attacked houses in the Wad Al-Nasara neighborhood with stones and bottles, and set fire to olive trees while IDF soldiers were present. On Friday, Hebron settlers threw molotov cocktails at property of Palestinian merchants. On Saturday, about 50 settlers attacked the house of Hamed Tayseer Abu `Eisha near the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, while International Solidarity activists were visiting.
Also during the week, settlers from Itamar, near Nablus, staged repeated attacks on agricultural lands of the village of Yanoun, setting fire to olive and almond trees.
Sources: Ha`aretz, International Middle East Media Center, Palestinian Center for Human Rights, International Solidarity Movement.