Tag Archives: hebron

My provocative question to the panel at “Israel tortures Palestinian children” event.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Mohammed Abu al Reesh, Bernard Regan at SOAS last night.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, Mohammed Abu al Reesh, Bernard Regan at SOAS last night.

Last night I asked a provocative question. At SOAS Palestine Society’s Palestinian Child Prisoners: How the Israeli military criminalises a generation I asked Mohammed Abu al Reesh and Ayed Abu Eqtaish what they would like to say to the family of Asher Palmer and his son, one year old Yonatan, both killed when a rock thrown by a Palestinian smashed through the windscreen of the car in which Asher was driving his little boy.

I know it was a “provocative question” because Bernard Regan, who was chairing the meeting, prefaced my question by instructing his audience not to respond to questioners “even if the question seems provocative” but to leave it to the panel to respond.

My “provocative question” was in response to Abu al Reesh, an ex-rock-thrower-turned-journalist, who is on a UK wide tour speaking about his time in Israeli prisons, and Abu Eqtaish, who works for Defence For Children International Palestine Section.

Mohammed Abu al Reesh now works for Al Quds newspaper, but when he was 15 years old he was approached by an Israeli army jeep during a curfew. He claims he was beaten up and so threw stones at the jeep in response. He said he was then arrested at 3am in the night, handcuffed, placed in a military vehicle under the feet of Israeli soldiers and taken away.

He alleged that during his first interrogation he was punched, slapped and threatened with sexual harassment by means of using a stick. During transfers between detention centres he was tied by his arms to the roof of the vehicle.

On reaching Atzion detention centre near Hebron, he continued, he was pushed down the stairs and was put in a small cell with 12 people in it. The cell, he said, had a bad smell and dirty mattresses and inmates were only allowed to go to the toilet once a day and had to use plastic bottles to pee in for the remainder of the day. Food, he said, was little and of poor quality consisting mainly of food left uneaten by Israeli soldiers.

Eventually he reached a plea bargain and spent 28 months in Damon prison near Haifa and by the end of his prison term he said he had skin problems and was weak physically. The good news, he said, was that he could sit his High School exams while in prison and scored a mark of 72. Two weeks after his release he enrolled at Al Quds University where he studied journalism for four years.

Within a year of leaving university he was working for Al Quds newspaper where he covers the arrest of children. And now he’s here on a UK wide speaking tour.

Next, Ayed Abu Eqtaish claimed that Israeli interrogators use psychological torture techniques on children in order to try to extract proper confessions. These include lengthy spells of solitary confinement after which a child will become “eager for human contact” and, therefore, more likely to confess. They also include, he said, threats of sexual abuse, threats to throw the child out of a window and threats made against members of the child’s family.

Abu Eqtaish said there is no point complaining because the Israeli authorities always close any case they open on the basis that there is “no cooperation from the child or the family”. He said that 60% of prosecutions are for stone throwing and there is a 99.74% conviction rate overall.

I was barracked from the moment I entered the lecture theatre to the moment I left it, with one woman screaming “Why is he here?”

I wasn’t barracked by students though. You see, despite it being a student society event there were hardly any students in the 70 strong audience, which seemed to consist mainly of teachers who were members of the NUT.

Bernard Regan, who chaired the event, is Trade Union Officer for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and a leading figure in the Socialist Teachers Alliance.

Kirri Tunks, who also spoke, belongs to the East London Teachers Association. She was there last night to urge people to sign a pledge ensuring “the rights of Palestinian children”. I was there, yes, but at least I’m a SOAS alumnus, and a proud one.

A father had even brought his young son, who could not have been more than 10 years old. The young boy heard a woman in the audience make the allegation that when she had recently visited Hebron stones had been thrown at her by Israeli “settlers” while some of her friends had “faeces and urine thrown at them”.

With a room full of teachers, Abu Eqtaish who works for an organisation dedicated to child welfare and Abu al Reesh who has been able to make something positive out of his teenage rock-throwing and imprisonment I was hoping, although not expecting, that someone might have at least a word of sympathy for the family of one year old Yonatan Palmer, who now lies in his tiny grave because of another Palestinian rock-thrower.

And so I asked Abu al Reesh  and Abu Eqtaish my “provocative question”. This was Abu Eqtaish’s whole and sole response:

“This question should be directed to the Israeli government who broke international law by bringing 500,000 illegal settlers into occupied Palestinian territories. Their existence in the occupied territories is illegal, so the family of the child should sue the Israeli government for what was done against them.”

As for Mohammed Abu al Reesh, ex-rock-thrower-turned-journalist, he remained silent and just gave a long, chilling stare.

I’m still trying to work out which of these two responses is more despicable.

Music, Politics and Murder in Hebron.

By Daniel Marks

Ehud Banai, aged 60, is an important Israeli singer and songwriter. Born of the aristocratic Jerusalem Banai family he has recently become more religious, or traditional as it is often called in Israel. Despite this spiritual shift his political views are still generally considered to be left of centre.

This Succot, the Jewish festival of Tabernacles, Banai initially agreed to appear in the Judean settlement of Susya in South Hebron, but due to pressure from the Israeli left announced that he would cancel. However, after pressure from the Israeli right he finally announced that he would sing at Susya afterall.

I’m no great lover of music and rarely attend such gatherings, but on Sunday night I decided to attend. I wanted the concert to be a success and I reasoned that if any rowdy right wingers were to boo or heckle Banai, I’d be just the man to shut them up.

More importantly my daughter Rachelle is serving five minutes from Susya as part of her officers’ course and it would be a chance to bring her some home-cooked food and meet her friends. My sister, who lives ten minutes from Susya, invited us for a barbeque lunch in between seeing Rachelle and going to the concert.

All in all, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. So, late Sunday morning we set off southwards.

Ehud Banai.

Ehud Banai.

We were pleased to see Rachelle. She told us that left wing demonstrators had been protesting near to the tiny settlement in which they were stationed. Apparently, the IDF’s main worry was what hot-headed settlers might do to these poor European anarchists.

Over lunch nobody spoke about politics. Truthfully, everything there is to say has been said so many times. Instead, it was all about family matters, gossip and advice for my niece who soon leaves for three years in Italy as an Israeli emissary and teacher. Her sister, who has waited for a child for nine years and has known so many disappointments, was there looking delightfully fat and pregnant. Please G-d.

It is now 7.15pm and we enter Susya. Shouts of “Free Palestine!” greet us and upset the festive atmosphere. I have heard something similar many times on clips on this excellent blog, but never live. They seem to be out of tune chanting “Free Pales-tine!” rather than the usual and much more melodious “Free Free Pal-es-tine!”.

Every fibre of my being wants to stop the car, get out and ask them why in this sea of madness that we call the Middle East the focus of their protests were always against this one tiny island of sanity, democracy and human rights.

“So, what would you say to them?” challenged my son. “What would you say?”

“Maybe I’d ask them why they don’t drive another 150 miles north and demonstrate against genocide” I replied.

“Yes, but they can’t go to Syria” retorted Ariel, “They would be torn to shreds by both sides.”

Ariel is right. There is very little point in trying to persuade those who believe in the concept of a “Higher Truth”. You can argue yourselves blue in the face citing historical facts, international law and just common sense, but they’ll just wait for you to finish and then repeat yet another tired cliché about apartheid or colonialism or worse.

And, anyway, the IDF were desperately putting every effort into protecting those wretched anarchists and wouldn’t have let me near them.

Gal Kobi who was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

Gal Kobi who was killed by a Palestinian sniper.

We arrive at the outdoor concert area after stopping briefly to taste some excellent, but over-priced Hebron wine. It has a similar taste to the Palestinian grapes that we purchased along the way. There are no seats though the wise have brought plastic chairs with them. We are about a dozen sharing two small blankets that do little to protect us from the sharp pebbles. There are to be two singers, Boaz Sharabi and Banai.

Sharabi and the organizers also seem worried that members of the audience might boo or heckle Banai because of his original cancellation. Sharabi inserts into his impressive performance a moving plea to receive his friend warmly. In the event there is little to worry about as the feast of tabernacles is traditionally a time of joy and Banai is cheered.

I may be there for political reasons, but clearly most are just out to have a good time, and who can blame them?

On the way home we hear that a Palestinian sniper has shot and killed a soldier in Hebron. Roxana, my wife, is worried that it might be one of Rachelle’s brothers in arms. However, it transpires that it was 20-year-old Gal (Gabriel) Kobi who served in another unit.

There is no reason to feel relief. Gal’s blood was no less red than the soldiers who are serving with Rachelle and he too had friends and family who loved him. He was a complete world and had plans and dreams and a potential that will never be realized because of the bullet of a coward with a sniper’s rifle.

I call Rachelle one last time on our way home and, as is traditional in Judaism, we part with a word of Torah. The story is told of a Jewish man who sits in his tabernacle with his young daughter one stormy night. The winds rock the shack and blow out some of the candles and his daughter asks, “Father, what will happen? Will our tabernacle fall down?” Her father smiles and strokes her head, “Don’t worry,” he answers, “This tabernacle has been standing for 3,000 years.”

And that is the truth. Perhaps that is what I should have told those anarchists.

Daniel Marks, a teacher, lives in Ma’ale Adumim on the West Bank.

TravelPalestine advert banned by ASA.

The Advertising Standards Authority has deemed it “misleading” for TravelPalestine to advertise Jerusalem as part of Palestine. The same potentially applies to Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus and Gaza, which were also mentioned in this TravelPalestine advert:

TravelPalestine advert (click to enlarge).

TravelPalestine advert (click to enlarge).

The advert drew 149 complaints which challenged the advert on three grounds:
1. Palestine was not a recognised country.
2. It was misleading to describe Palestine as being between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan River, when Israel is also there.
3. It was misleading to suggest Jerusalem was part of Palestine.

The complaints were only made after this advert by the Israeli Tourist Board had to be withdrawn after complaints that Israel was misleadingly advertising Jerusalem:

Israel Tourist Board's advert.

Israel Tourist Board's advert.

In their Final Adjudication the ASA responded to the three grounds as follows:

1. Not upheld – The advert did not claim that Palestine was a recognised country and, so, was not misleading.

2. Not upheld – Not misleading because the description “between the Mediterranean Coast and the Jordan Sea” did not suggest the whole area was Palestinian-administered territory.

3. Upheld – The status of Jerusalem is in dispute. “From the famous cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jerischo, Nablus and Gaza…Palestine lies between…” was misleading because these cities are not universally accepted as being part of Palestine (the latter five cities were not the subject of the current complaint).

The ASA ordered that the advert must not appear again in its current form and that future adverts must not suggest that it was universally accepted that locations were part of Palestine when they weren’t.

It is a shame it came to this. Jerusalem is an increasingly impoverished city for all the people that live there.

Jerusalemites desperately need tourism but we now seem to be at the ridiculous juncture where neither Israel nor the Palestinians can advertise Jerusalem. Not only that but, unprompted, the ASA went further by making it difficult for TravelPalestine to advertise ANY of the cities that the Palestinians are claiming!

It just goes to show that those who try to tear down Israel will only be tearing down the Palestinians as well. But then again, as we know, most of them don’t really give a damn about the Palestinians. It’s the Jewish state, stupid.

Israel cannot advertise this!

Israel cannot advertise this!

Hezbollah supporters marching through London tomorrow

Hezbollah flag (gun included) - to be paraded through London tomorrow

Hezbollah flag (gun included) - to be paraded through London tomorrow

Ever noticed how many campaigns against the Jewish state commence on Jewish holy days? Examples:

Yom Kippur 1973 – Egypt attacks Israel.

Saturday (Shabbat) 8th May 2008
– Thousands of people marched through the streets of London calling for an end to the siege on Gaza, the right of return for Palestinians and an end to Israel’s occupation.

Every other Saturday 2009/2010 – The now infamous demonstrations outside the Jewish Israeli owned Ahava shop in London’s Covent Garden.

Saturday (Shabbat and Yom Kippur) 18th September 2010 – A new overland convoy, Viva Palestina 5 – a global lifeline to Gaza, is leaving for Gaza from London.

Saturday 4th September 2010 – Al Quds Day
. As the website says: “Every year Muslims and non-Muslims from different walks of life unite under the banner of Quds Day to show their solidarity with the oppressed of the world and in particular the suffering people of Palestine. Founded by the late Imam Khomeini, it is an event that symbolizes the undying spirit to eradicate injustice around the world.”

So, Al Quds Day, brought to you by the Iranian regime that wants to show “solidarity with the oppressed of the world” and “eradicate injustice around the world” while executing thousands of its own citizens every year for such “crimes” as committing adultery (women only though), being gay and, of course, disagreeing with the general policies of the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei regime.

As ever Hezbollah and Hamas flags will be paraded in London along with the now ubiquitous “We are all Hezbollah” and “We are all Hamas” banners and this just a few days after four innocent people, including a pregnant woman, were slaughtered by Hamas near Hebron.

The public statements of Sheikh Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, are well known. Jews are descended from pigs and apes being one while another is if Jews all gathered in Israel it would save the problem of going after them worldwide.

And so go after them worldwide they did.

In 1992 Hezbollah blew up the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires killing 29 people.

And in 1994 Hezbollah blew up the Jewish community centre contained in the AMIA building in the same city killing another 85 people.

Argentina has warrants out for the arrest of the suspects who are all now fully protected in Iran, which instigated both attacks.

So while tomorrow’s Al Quds day march is taking place Londoners should hold their noses tight as the stench of hypocrisy reeks across the capital.

Meanwhile, it would be nice if anti-Israel demonstrations could sometimes take place on a Sunday so Britain’s 280,000 Jews could at least come out en masse for once to tell the protesters what they think of them.

And in case you missed it here for your delectation is a clip of last year’s Hezbollah/Hamas Al Quds Day London love-in:

The trouble with Hebron

Praying at the Western Wall

Praying at the Western Wall

The main trouble with Hebron on the West Bank is that it is one of the holiest sites for the Jewish people. It is second only to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In Hebron sits the Machpelah, which is said to have been purchased by Abraham, the progenitor of the Jewish people.

In the Machpelah, which is one half beautiful mosque and one half beautiful synagogue, are said to be buried the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as well as Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. Rachel is buried in nearby Bethlehem, where she is said to have died in childbirth.

And Joseph’s tomb is said to be located in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus are all in the West Bank and are wanted by the Palestinians, along with east Jerusalem, as part of a future Palestinian state.

The Synagogue of the Machpelah, Hebron.

The Synagogue of the Machpelah, Hebron.

But Hebron, Bethlehem and Nablus are as much a part of the religion, culture and history of the Jewish people as the two Jewish Temples that used to sit atop the Temple Mount in east Jerusalem and which have since been replaced by the Golden Domed Mosque. The Western Wall is the only remaining remnant of the Second Jewish Temple.

And it is partly with all this in mind that the Jewish people were granted the authority to return to these areas via the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

But between 1949 and 1967 Jews were cleansed from these areas by the Arabs when Jordan controlled the West Bank. Israel took it during the 1967 war and since then Israeli Jews have been able to visit these sites for prayer or just cultural curiosity, if they wish.

Most Jews, including non-Israeli ones, generally don’t though and the reason is clear.

On Tuesday four Israeli civilians were gunned down in their car near Hebron. Hamas proudly claimed responsibility while Palestinians poured on to the streets of Gaza to celebrate the murder of innocents.

The usual sickening excuses that the victims brought it upon themselves by being in the West Bank in the first place are being rolled out, but those who were murdered had every right to be where they were when they were killed.

However many times an ignorant journalist or lazy presenter calls the settlements or the settlers “illegal”, that does not make it a fact.

No where in international law are the settlements stated to be illegal.

Anyway, it is not like Hamas thinks about international law when it wants to carry out a terrorist act.

When they murdered those four people on tuesday they saw four Jews, not some dubious legal grievance.

It was the same in Hebron in 1929, 19 years before Israel was born, when the Mufti of Jerusalem incited the slaughter of 60 members of the orthoodox Jewish community of Hebron.

That said Jewish settlers should not necessarily stay in the West Bank just because they have the unambiguous right to.

If there is a reasonable prospect of a proper accord with the Palestinians then the settlers can be removed in the cause of peace. This is all subject to negotiation now.

The only people who can decide the course of events and history are those currently ensconced around the negotiating tables in Washington.

However, it is highly incongruous that while the Palestinians are insistent on having all their religious needs met by holding on to Hebron and the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem (as stated, both being sacred ground for Jews also), the Jews are expected to lay waste to their own religious heritage.

In a final peace agreement the Temple Mount in east Jerusalem, the holiest of Jewish sites, will be in Palestine as will Nablus and Bethlehem. The Palestinians also expect to obtain Hebron, the second holiest of Jewish sites.

While the Jewish people will still retain the Western Wall, where they can pray for dead and dying loved ones, it is only the Jews that will have sacrificed important parts of their religious heritage.

If religious sites cannot somehow be shared then the Palestinians must also expect to give up parts of their own religious heritage for peace.

Golden Domed Mosque sits atop the Jewish Temples' site

Golden Domed Mosque sits atop the Jewish Temples' site

Inside Machpelah Synagogue, Hebron

Inside Machpelah Synagogue, Hebron

The Mosque of the Machpelah, Hebron

The Mosque of the Machpelah, Hebron

Israeli army outside the Machpelah

Israeli army outside the Machpelah