Correspondence and News Releases from Palestinian Occupied Territories
June 20 – July 4, 2002
By or about Rae Levine, of Inverness, CA, and Eric Levine, of New Haven, Connecticut, who participated as volunteers with the International Solidarity Movement Freedom Summer in support of non-violent resistance of Palestinians to the Occupation.
(For more resources on Palestine, click here.)
Sent: Thursday, June 20, 2002 3:57 PM
Subject: Fw: hello from Rae in Jerusalem
Dear Family & Friends,
For some of you this message from Jerusalem will be a surprise. I arrived here yesterday with my son, Eric, to do solidarity work in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Currently we're staying at a hostel in Jerusalem, so I can send some e-mail. I'm writing quickly as this is a shared computer, so I'm sorry for less than polished writing.
In the last months I have been especially following the news, but being here and seeing things, talking with people directly, I feel the impact of the situation much more strongly. Today we went to Ramallah. Among other things, we saw Arafat's headquarters. The pictures in the paper and on TV have not captured the immensity of the damage ... buildings crashed in and crumbled, bullet holes by Arafat's bedroom, a huge pile of rubble moved to block the entrance ... imagine such a thing being done to the president of a country!
We visited a family, friends of my friends in Seattle. Their son has been in prison for 2 months, though he has not been charged with anything. (This is quite common here.) His parents cannot visit him because they cannot go to Israel with their West Bank identity cards, so their 12-year-old daughter goes to see him every week. She can go because she is too young to have an identity card. So she goes by herself (today we went with her) across the checkpoints to Jerusalem and then relatives who live there go with her to the prison.
There are so many examples like this where the daily injustices of the occupation have a huge impact on people's lives. We had the normal checkpoint experience coming back from Ramallah to Jerusalem today. The trip would take 15 minutes, but we were in a shared taxi and were stopped at two checkpoints so it took an hour. That's after the first checkpoint we went through on foot. The stops seem to be for harassment and intimidation more than for security. At one checkpoint the van was signaled to pull aside. Then the driver told the soldiers that he had foreigners. The soldier looked at our passports and waved the van through. The woman next to me, who makes the trip every day for work, said she is tired of living this way. Yet she was smiling to me. She said that she only thinks of each day ... they don't know what the future will be.
Meanwhile, tanks have rolled into most, if not all the cities in the West Bank, and Gaza was bombed yesterday.
I will write when I can. There is so much more to say.
Love to all, Rae
Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 2:09 PM (Pacific time)
Subject: day 2
It's been a long day. We had training until 4 pm and then left to come back to Ramallah. They are expecting another invasion at Arafat's headquarters and elsewhere in Ramallah. Tonight Eric and I are staying at the Medical Relief Committee in order accompany ambulances if there is an invasion, as well as being an international presence here, which is one of buildings that was wrecked the last time. Two other groups are staying at Arafat's headquarters (which we visited tonight) and another key NGO. We don't know for sure if the soldiers will come.
I have been struck today by the surrealness of the situation. There have been bombings and massive re-occupation in Jenin, killings in Nablus and other areas, and expectation of such here in Ramallah. Yet at the surface daily life continues (though people stay home more than usual), there is laughing, I don't feel the tension in the streets that I remember in Chiapas when the danger was less. Our group had a very nice dinner in a restaurant ... delicious food, beautiful flowers, hospitable people ... all as if we were a tourist group enjoying the city.
Meanwhile we are so close up to the immediate situation we are in, I feel less aware of the overall situation, less connected to news overall. People who live here tune the news out sometimes ... it's just too much to keep in regular awareness. And I am told that after a while I will get used to the surrealness. We'll see.
My sense is that we are in the midst of another version of the April invasion, done possibly in a less dramatic way, but still people are dying every day and yet there is little or no coverage and no action by the official international community to stop the inhumanity.
I'm still glad I came ... it is quite an experience. I hope we get through the night without anything major, as I'm tired. If we can go back to Jerusalem in the morning we will, for media training, and then will be sent out to areas like Nablus and Jenin.
Rae called today (Saturday, June 22) before 2 PM Pacific time, which is almost midnight in Palestine. Here's a summary of what she said. [--Roger]
She, Eric, and four other solidarity workers went to Nablus, where they expect to stay for several days. She and Eric are staying at the office of the Medical Relief Committee. The Israelis have declared the town "closed," which means that no one is allowed to enter, leave, or be outside. It's a 24-hour curfew. Any Palestinians seen outside would be shot by Israeli forces. On the other hand, if internationals are seen, they can show their passports and be OK. There are tanks present, and occasionally there is the sound of gunfire and tanks shooting. This is the fourth time in three months that Nablus has been closed.
Tonight they were served a big feast by a local family. She characterizes the Palestinians she has met there as warm and hospitable, and she observes a great contrast between what is being done to them and how they treat people. The Palestinians there are very appreciative of the internationals. She hasn't yet been in a situation where she felt she could get shot. People are taking good care of her and Eric, and they are doing fine.
She said that the saddest thing is that the Palestinians she has met believe that only Bush can make the situation change - and that they are probably right.
An Israeli tactic now is to demolish the homes of the families of suicide bombers (referred to there as martyrs). Perhaps the internationals will be able to intervene against this. You may have seen in today's news that Israeli troops killed five Palestinian children and a teacher yesterday. This is not the first time. Rae observed: They kill some children. Then they apologize, and kill some more.
Sent: Sunday, June 23, 2002 12:54 PM (Pacific)
I've spent today and tonight riding in the Medical Relief Committee ambulance all around Nablus. Below is a message from the organization describing the situation in Nablus, how serious it is. The city is still under curfew, which means that no one is allowed out day or night, but the tanks cannot be everywhere at once, so people, especially kids, go out during the day and even some at night.
Since people can't go out, the ambulance has become the one-and-only service for taking medicines to people, giving shots to those who would normally come to the clinic, taking people to the hospital (with some help from hospital ambulances). The one ambulance, with one driver, has been putting in roughly
18 hours a day for the past few days. There is always a doctor in the ambulance to do examinations of people and dispense medicine. A pharmacist rode with us for a while, too.
Yesterday the ambulance was stopped by soldiers and made to sit in the sun for 3 hours while they examined all the equipment. One day in April they were made to take off their clothes. Neither of those things happened today. We drove around hearing shots being fired and tanks moving throughout the day.
Toward dusk we drove to a home with an older man who needed hypertension medicine. The whole family came out. There were 2 tanks parked at the end of the street. After a while 4 soldiers came over to us fully loaded up with big rifles. They were very young, and even with their big weapons looked frightened. I showed my passport and asked what the problem was. The driver spoke to them in Hebrew. They said it was the curfew, and something about being concerned about what was in the ambulance (as if it were carrying bombs) but we said that they were just taking care of the sick people and after a while they said OK and left. And we continued on.
I saw lots of destruction as we drove around. The government building was virtually demolished, as was at least one home I saw. There is rubble everywhere. Meanwhile, through it all, the spirit of these people is strong and friendly, not bitter. I admire their courage to continue going, violating the curfew to go out with the ambulance and take care of people's needs, but from their perspective, what else would they do?
We had many conversations about the need and desire for peace. Everyone I talk with here wants to live in peace with Israel. People say that they just want their freedom, to have their own country. If Israel wants security, all they have to do is go to their own country, end the occupation, remove the settlements, and let the Palestinians have their own state, and relate to them as equals. It seems so obvious and hard to understand how Israel thinks that escalating force will produce peace. People here will keep resisting.
Thanks for all the emails of concern and support.
More later, Rae
Subject: UPMRC - Urgent Appeal From Nablus
Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC)
Urgent Appeal From Nablus
June 22, 2002
The Israeli army has launched a massive military operation against Nablus City, including its four refugee camps. For the fourth time in three months Israeli troops have reinvaded the city and suburbs under the pretext of fighting terrorism. However according to the Israelis, this time the invasion will be for a longer period of time. The one hundred and fifty thousand residents of Nablus are forced to remain inside their homes as a strict 24-hour military curfew has been imposed over the city.
Already Israeli tanks and armored vehicles have vandalized the streets of the city, causing enormous physical damage to the infrastructure. Additionally they have taken permanent positions on top of high buildings, forcing the residents to remain in one apartment of the building.
Mass arrests are taking place in most of the neighborhoods of the city - thus far dozens of Palestinians have been seized and sent to detention centers. The whole social, educational and medical systems have come to a standstill; the end of year high school exam (tawjeehi) has been cancelled due to the fact that students are unable leave their homes to attend school.
Medical teams are prevented from moving freely, ambulances are frequently stopped, and medical personnel are harassed. One doctor and the driver of Medical Relief were detained for two hours while attempting to transport an ill two-year-old baby.
Yet again the Israeli army is creating a situation of fear and terror among the civilian population, as well as endangering their lives. There is no justification for the attacks on civilians, and collective punishment Palestinians are subjected to.
This latest Israeli aggression against Palestinians is another facet of the continuing aggression of the Israeli occupation. The international community should realize that the main cause of the current dangerous situation in the region is this occupation, and security and regional stability will not assured until this occupation is ended.
We appeal to the international community to intervene immediately and force the Israeli government to comply with international law and to withdraw its forces immediately from the Palestinian areas.
For more information contact Dr Mustafa Barghouthi - +972 (0) 50 254 218, and Dr. Allam Jarar in Nablus, +972 (0) 59 649133
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, June 25, 2002 12:29 PM (Pacific)
I am still in Nablus, which continues to be under siege by the Israeli army. The word "curfew" is so mild; it does not capture the severity of the situation here. No one can get in or out of the city, which sits in a valley between 2 big mountains. Soldiers are perched on the highest points on the top of homes with guns. They shoot from time to time. Tanks, bulldozers, jeeps, armored personnel carriers (all U. S. made and bought with U.S. aid to Israel) prowl the streets day and night stopping for awhile to chase some young people who dare to go in the streets outside their homes, shooting periodically. In some areas they have dug up the street and made huge barriers of rubble. I'm told that this is a first step to close off an area and that later the soldiers return to demolish a home or take all the men away.
Everywhere there are signs of destruction - smashed cars and buildings (public buildings like the government headquarters and homes), piles of rubble, walls with huge bullet holes. The soldiers are the only law here now. Today I rode in the ambulance again. We drove down a street and there was a tank. The soldier signaled for us to turn around and go away. There was no talking to him, reasoning, asking why, saying that we needed to go pick up a patient down this road. Forget the Geneva Convention that specifies that ambulances are to have free movement even in war zones - it's whatever the soldier says.
Last night we (the driver, a doctor, 3 Americans) were made to get out holding our arms up over our heads. Another time they shot first (not directly at the ambulance, though I'm told they have done that many times), then talked. These conditions of military siege and rule are being normalized now. Yesterday the curfew was lifted for a few hours so people could get food and take care of errands, and kids could go to school and take their exams to finish the term. The opening was announced at 1 am (i.e. the middle of the night before) by loud speaker in the streets outside the homes. After 2 pm when the curfew was re-imposed, the tanks, jeeps, and armored personnel carriers patrolled the streets to chase people back in doors. I heard lots of shooting then.
Keep in mind that this same situation is in force throughout the West Bank now. Ramallah was surrounded and closed off again yesterday. Bethlehem has been closed for days. People cannot get out of or into any of these cities, and others. And people cannot move around inside these cities. No one knows when the curfew will be lifted, either for a short term, or for good, that is if the Israelis are even thinking of lifting it for good.
Every day Palestinians are killed and wounded. Yesterday we counted 9, plus one unverified rumor of a child being shot in the back. We (2 American and 1 Israeli-Canadian women) went with the ambulance to the scene where a man had been killed here in Nablus. It was near a Palestinian military base (which I don't think is active currently, but I'm told there are soldiers, though I haven't seen any.) The man was lying in the road but the soldiers would not let any Palestinians get near him to take him away. They had a tank, an armored personnel carrier, and another vehicle or two. When we arrived, they let us approach the spot so we could tell the Palestinians waiting that there was no one lying there wounded. The dead man had one leg and part of his face blown off. Next to him was a Kalashnikov rifle on top of a carrying bag. The soldiers said he had shot at them from the taxi he was in. A man shooting at a tank from a taxi seemed unlikely to me, but they seemed to feel genuinely threatened.
What possible justification can there be for this siege, for this daily and persistent aggression against a whole people and country? Bush has now put it onto the Palestinians to take the next steps toward peace, but they cannot even move out of their homes without being in danger of being shot by Israeli soldiers. Palestinians I speak to here say that they want peace with Israel and that all killing should be stopped. I've heard people say that if Israel truly wants peace, all that is needed is for them to withdraw the occupation and the settlements. These are the aggressions that are leading desperate young people to blowing themselves up.
Before I came here, I thought I had an idea of what was happening, but being here in person, I see that the situation is so much more extreme than I could imagine before. The Palestinians are being caught in a vice and Israel is tightening the vice tighter every day. People I have spoken with had some hope because Bush had said he supported a Palestinian state, but now it sounds like Sharon's words are coming out of his mouth. Who will get Israel to step back from this current aggression? Please do what you can to tell our officials to stop this inhumanity now.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, June 26, 2002 11:37 AM [Pacific]
I spoke on KWMR [our local, independent radio station in Pt. Reyes, CA] live today from the ambulance.
Things are the same here or getting worse. Seems like more shooting today and we hear that the soldiers are getting people out of their houses. We saw one spot where a bunch of soldiers were holding guns on a number of Palestinians in the street.
Sorry I can’t write more, but access to computer is very limited.
June 29 Update from Rae
Yesterday was incredible. We had a great demonstration of about 100 people - 30 internationals and 70 Palestinians. We walked through the Old City of Nablus on the main street, and in the main square in defiance of curfew. It was covered on CNN, BBC, and Al Jaazera and by local paper & TV. Everyone here was so pleased ... it was completely non-violent (young boys marched with us but did not throw stones) and we were not confronted by soldiers at any point, so it was a complete victory of breaking curfew.
Later in the day we went to an apartment building that has been taken over by Israeli soldiers. They have evicted the residents of the roof flat to use it as their headquarters, have put an Israeli flag on the roof, and are holding 6 families with 25 children and 18 adults in house arrest... We are trying to help them negotiate basic things with the soldiers, but their main concern is to get the soldiers out. We need to see about launching a campaign in support of this building and about 9 others like it in Nablus.
Please let everyone know that we are doing fine. The warmth and hospitality of the people here is beyond anything I have ever experienced. It will be difficult to leave here in a few days. People here are very appreciative of our efforts and say that our involvement is helping to boost their spirits and solidarity with one another.
Can't write more now. Rae
June 29, 2002 Press Release
International Solidarity Movement Report from Nablus
Currently there are more than six villages around the West bank city of Nablus that have been cut off completely by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Tanks, armored personnel carriers (APC's) and bulldozers have created barriers four to five feet in width from dirt and concrete. At many of these barriers the soldiers have created ad hoc checkpoints where they harass, humiliate and prevent the movement of the local Palestinian population. Some villages have been put under curfew, equivalent to house arrest, and all are suffering from the lack of commerce and food deliveries.
This morning the main road exiting from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus has been bulldozed, but locals have resisted and filled in a small path for cars to pass. Due to the deep cuts of the bulldozers a sewage line was severed. Raw sewage is running down the street almost reaching nearby Askar Refugee Camp. Curfew in Nablus has prevented any substantive work from being done to fix this awful and risky situation.
This afternoon internationals witnessed the closure of Boreen, a small Palestinian village. Susan Barclay, Eric and Rae Levine were on ambulance duty with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees. From the ambulance they watched and photographed Israeli bulldozers, protected by an APC, dig a trench across the only road linking Boreen with the rest of the world. The dirt has been piled high and the internationals have been instructed by the occupation forces that all of the villages are inaccessible but are not closed military zones.
Later, still in the ambulance, they met a group of students who told the internationals that they had been picked up by soldiers. The men were separated out, blindfolded, tied and taken to an unknown detention area. They were later released but some without their identity cards, making it impossible for them to go home.
Denial of Water
The village of Beit Farik has a population of 12,000 and Beit Dajan has 3,500. Only one road leads to these two villages and that road is flanked on each side by Israeli colonies. Palestinians say that they cannot walk this road because of the heavy military presence and the fear of being shot by colonists. The intensity of the situation increased recently when Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a home in the colony of Itamar earlier this month.
Every year there is a water shortage in the villages and normally water is purchased and trucked in. Currently there are two water trucks sitting at an Israeli military checkpoint and are being denied entry. Internationals investigated this situation and report that the checkpoint consists of six cement blocks and five pillars of concrete that form a small occupation forces camp with tanks and APC's. The villages have received no water and are desperate for the deliveries.
As a general principle, in both internal and international armed conflict it is lawful to attack only military objectives. From this derives the rule stated in Article 54 of the first of the two 1977 Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions that "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited." Denying the civilian population water is just as illegal as denying them food. (Crimes of War p.377)
We represent the United States, Canada, Israel, UK and call on our governments and peoples
to condemn these acts of barbarism.
June 30, 2002 INTERNATIONALS STOP TANK ADVANCEMENT WITH BODIES
Arrest of American peace activist and journalists
[NABLUS] Earlier today international peace activists investigated a home that local Palestinians believed was seized by the military. After determining that Israeli soldiers had indeed taken the top floor of the house they tried to speak with the family. The family is confined to the top floor and was not allowed to speak freely with the internationals.
In the street internationals made signs warning the local population of the military presence. One armored personnel carrier (APC), one tank and a bulldozer rolled down the street towards the house. With local press from Reuters and other agencies as well as the internationals taping, four international civilians representing the USA, UK, Canada and Israel laid down in the street effectively stopping the advancement of the Israeli military. Israeli forces resorted to violence launching tear gas and sound grenades at them but the activists held fast.
The military backed away and approached from another direction and the same situation was replayed.
Israeli army jeeps arrived and arrested the press, forcing them into jeeps and taking them to an unknown location. The journalists are: Hassan Titti and Abed Qusini from Reuters. One American peace activist, Eric Levine, was forced into another jeep and hauled away.
At this point we are trying to determine Eric's condition and whereabouts. International civilians are still intent on protecting the family from the Israeli military and will remain in the area.
Video footage may be available.
For more information in Nablus contact:
Neta Golan - 059-871-055
For more information on The International Solidarity Movement contact:
Huwaida Arraf - 052-642-709 or 067-473-308
Ghassan Andoni 052 595 319
Postscript: The soldiers left the house they were occupying in the wee hours of the following morning, days before they had planned to. They had been there secretly, with a plan of assassinating someone walking by the house, but the exposure of their presence foiled the plan. The family and neighbors thanked a group of international that went to visit them the following day for their help.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, June 30, 2002 1:16 PM
Subject: Eric detained in Palestine
Rae just called to tell me that her son Eric Levine has been detained by Israeli forces and is being held in a police station in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, about a half hour from Nablus, towards Tel Aviv. He is OK. There was a demonstration and AP and Reuters reporters were also arrested. This was about 6:30 PM today local time (8:30 AM Pacific time). Rae and others hope they may be able to see him in the morning.
Everyone who can, please e-mail or call the US embassy in Israel. (The only e-mail addresses I have are included below.) Insist that they do all they can to assure he is afforded his rights and can be visited by a lawyer (he already has one) and his mother, Rae Levine, who is there.
Here is all the US contact info I have. Please at least e-mail. Then, if you can, fax or call someone in the embassy. They need to know that a lot of people are aware and care about Eric.
Please distribute this message.
US Embassy, 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv -- Ambassador Daniel Krutzer
011-972-3-519-7575 - business hours -- in Is 03-519-7575
after 4:30 pm and before 8:00 am -- 519-7551
Ingrid Barzel 519-7534
Micha Cleaverly 011-972-3-519-7479
Sandra, U.S. Embassy (American Citizen Services): 011-972-5197371
Consular Section of US Consulate General, 27 Nablus Road, Jerusalem
972-2-622-7200, after hours: 622-7250
US Consulate in Israel: For cheapest calls to Israel, first dial 1010-811. 14 cents/minute.
Consular section, Chris Dilworth: firstname.lastname@example.org
For emergency services if Embassy & Consulate don't respond:
Consulate General in Jerusalem: 622-7230, Embassy in Tel Aviv: 519-7355
> The American Citizen Services Officer is Victoria Coffineau,
> (011)-972-2-622-7215, or (cheaper) 10-10-811-972-2-622-7215.
> The Consular Chief is Mary Draper
> A fax to the Consulate is a very good idea:
----- Original Message -----
From: "harry a levine"
Sent: Sunday, June 30, 2002 4:27 PM [Pacific]
Subject: Re: Eric detained in Palestine
This is Harry Levine (brother to Rae/uncle to Eric). I've talked to Rae. First off, this news just in. Eric has been released and will be taken to Jerusalem. We don't know anything else at this time - whether it means he won't be allowed back into the West Bank. So it sounds like there is no need to be contacting the consulate or embassy on Eric's behalf.
Rae described the circumstances in detail. They had gone to an apartment building to try to "reason" with the Israeli Defense Force that had not only occupied a Palestinian family's apartment but had locked the family in with them. The IDF had no interest in negotiating and responded by sending a tank and dispersing tear gas. Rae was on a balcony outside the apartment when the tank rolled up and Eric and a number of internationals ran to the street to sit in front of the tank. At that time, the IDF detained 2 Palestinian reporters and Eric. Everyone else were women and were not detained.
Rae said that she was able to contact the police at the station in Ariel and talk to someone who was sitting right next to Eric but would not allow her to talk to him. She also said that the woman she spoke to at the consulate seemed interested and helpful. I'm sure there will be more news in the near future.
This is from Rae's son Eric, 27 years old. Just released from an Israeli jail, late Sunday night or early Monday morning in Israel.
I don't know how long I will make it through this message because I have had a long, long day, but it was certainly worth writing down, so.... we got a call in the morning that in the middle of the night, around 3 am, Israeli commandos had invaded a house in the middle of Nablus, and the family was locked in one room with the soldiers like hostages. Now this is not so unusual, as house occupation is standard policy as part of the broader invasion. This generally involves soldiers banging on doors anywhere from 2am to 6 am, making all of the residents exit the building in several minutes at gunpoint, "sweeping" the building (or vandalizing, however you choose to call the haphazard destruction troops wreck on homes under the premise of looking for weapons), and then locking all the civilian families in one or two rooms as hostages while the soldiers occupy the upper floors, for anywhere from 2 days to over a month. These civilians are confined to prison in their own homes, having to negotiate with soldiers for food, clothes and use of the restroom. Try to imagine this happening to you in your own home.
Many cases have been reported of individuals with chronic health conditions being denied medication or exit in such situations as well. In Nablus, Israeli troops have occupied about 15 residential buildings. We have begun a campaign to document and monitor this horrific policy as a clear and easily communicable representation of the broader occupation, as this is happening in every single city in the West Bank, and receiving little to no attention as a total human rights violation.
Anyway, we headed over to this newly occupied house and announced our presence, trying to communicate with anyone inside to find out how the family was, what was the purpose of this occupation, etc. An old man was sent to the door, and being clearly terrified, said that everything was fine and there were no soldiers in the house, even though we could see the army duffle bags in the room through the window.
After repeated attempts to communicate with the supposedly non-existent soldiers, we were greeted
with percussion grenades, as an attempt to make us go away. After much debate about what we could possibly do in this situation (a slightly new circumstance, as occupied buildings are usually surrounded with tanks and snipers, while this time we happened upon what looked like an attempted covert operation with only a handful of soldiers), we decided to tape signs to the sides of the building warning locals of the presence of soldiers and to try to present a sufficiently interesting picture for the media. (The every day atrocities committed under Israel's current policy in the West Bank and Gaza are rarely covered by the media, as they have become the status quo.)
With the local AP and Reuters reporters on the scene, we set up signs and were preparing to squat the building through the night when we heard the military vehicles approaching. At this point a large group of people had gathered in the square in front of the building and the house had been silent for some time with the exception of two more percussion grenades when the press arrived. An armored personnel carrier, a bulldozer and a massive tank started to roll down the street leading onto the square and five of us decided to block their approach. What ensued was surreal, and so I will try to just give a quick blow by blow, as I think I will only be able to describe everything in person at a later
So, imagine, myself, two American women, one Canadian/Israeli woman and a Pakistani/British woman, sitting down Indian-style, holding hands to block off a street about 20 feet wide, a large crowd of people including locals, children, the press, a couple of internationals in the square up the hill behind us, a couple of internationals on the balcony of the occupied house outside the door we had been knocking on trying to talk to those inside, an M-16 pointed out of the same house from a side window at us, through a curtain, and three large military vehicles bristling with guns rolling towards us up the street........ and then it sort of went like this.
The APC came up the street to a distance of about 20 feet and stopped, We said hello to the driver whose head we could barely see behind the 250 mm gun on the front and informed him that Brazil had just won the world cup. The soldier in the APC gave us a thumbs up for Brazil and looked like he was calling a commander on a walkie talkie. The soldier asked one person to come talk to him. Another international from the square behind us did so and told us that he was requesting that the press and crowd move away, which they did slightly.
The family in the house to our right made us tea and biscuits and brought them down to the doorway for us..... So, at this point we are looking at a stalemate between us and the APC/bulldozer/tank and drinking tea, while sitting in a street, which was rather amusing to tell you the truth, and then without warning (it goes rather quick here), the soldier in the APC threw two canisters of tear gas at us and a percussion grenade. We all curl up in balls and cover our faces. The crowd behind (30 feet or so) runs backward. The wind blows the tear gas away.
We think we've won as the tank goes away and the APC pulls off to the side for a bit, and then a jeep comes roaring down a side street, soldiers jump out, stuff two of the three press in the back of the jeep, run over to us, the captain hits me on the shoulder and side of the head, he and another soldier grab me by the arms and drag me on my stomach 20 feet toward the jeep over the dirt and gravel, at which point I am a bit disoriented, but distinctly remember one of the other internationals running along side and yelling at them that I was not resisting and to let me up....... (as a reminder, all of this happened without a single person asking us to leave or explaining that we should not be sitting in the street and drinking tea, no warning of any kind)....
Anyway, several long rides, through one army base, passed off to the police (as the army can not arrest you, just detain you), much berating and proselytizing by various soldiers ranging from calling my an anti-Semite to comparing me to Osama Bin Laden.... a four-hour wait in the police station in Ariel (where it was explained to me by the police captain that I had rights in Israel, but that he wasn't going to explain them to me because he didn't have to and because he could "amend" them at any time, (should also mention that I was never informed of what I was being charged with specifically, beyond a single mention by one police officer to "disturbing a public servant"), had the soldier's report translated for me wherein he claimed that he had approached us with a written notice stating that we were in a closed military area, and repeatedly asked us to leave (which we had according to him refused repeatedly) and then "accompanied" me to the jeep.......and then the best part..... an hour and a half interrogation wherein I somehow managed to convince the captain's boss that he should let me go scot free..... not sure how that one worked out, but I think it had something to do with the fact that there were ten or so cameras recording the events on the site and they had only managed to snag two of them (so watch CNN, although from what I hear, the head of the military branch of Hamas was assassinated in Nablus last night while I was in jail, so I don't know if the footage will make it through to the news)...... anyway, at the end of it, I was released from Ariel where the police station was, many miles away from anywhere and was lucky enough to have a taxi sent for me by fellow activists in Jerusalem who also brought me food, water, cigarettes and a phone which I had none of, at which point I proceeded to call my mother (who was likely a bit worried about me having watched the entire series of events from the house balcony (and she said she got great pictures)
I feel as if this summary account of today just does not capture what happened, but I will try to do a better job of it later. Also, while this was certainly interesting to me, as I was directly involved, it does not illuminate the excessive force and impunity exercised by the Israeli army on a daily basis on the Palestinian civilian population, crimes which are funded by the American government. Please talk to somebody, call a government representative and tell them that you don't want this to continue; unfortunately I think that Israel has no intention of stopping (the police captain alluded to "something coming" that resembled Armageddon when I asked him about what he saw as the way to peace, and
told me he was forbidden to give me details of classified information, so I fear it will only get worse)...... and I am running off to bed, or walking, as I have finally been able to shower and scrub the tear gas and dirt off my skin (not a nice feeling I assure you), and will try to get back to Nablus tomorrow to rejoin the group and my mother there.
Good night. I hope you are all well.
Sent: Monday, July 01, 2002 9:06 PM
Subject: Fw: latest about Eric Levine
Here's the latest I have about Eric - a saga that is apparently not quite over yet. Following Lisa's report is something that appears to have come from ISM - I got it at least third hand. Most of it you have heard before but it has a few more details.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lisa Anamasi"
Sent: Monday, July 01, 2002 4:03 PM [Pacific]
Subject: talked with Rae
Only a few days of updates left. I want to thank all of you who called and/or emailed responding with great support. I'm sure I needed it more that I'd like to admit and appreciate every word more than you know. So, thank you.
I talk with Rae twice today. Once in the AM (about 3:30 PM there) and again just now (6:40 EST and 1:40 AM there). This morning she said that Eric was on his way back to Nablus with two other internationals. The three were traveling by car and then were to walk through the hills and villages of a valley nearby to avoid checkpoints he had been through before. I tried to call the cell phone of one of the men he was with, but I had no luck getting through. Rae told me later that no one she has spoken with has been able to get through to the cell phones the three are carrying due to poor service in valleys. She last heard that Eric had met up with a friend, possibly of one of the guys he's with, and is visiting with him. Since it is dark there now, it is assumed that the group will not continue on to Nablus until the morning. . . For obvious reasons. Rae is to call me if she hears from Eric and I will do the same, vice versa. The news
will then be passed on to you.
From: Roger Lippman
Sent: Wednesday, July 03, 2002 2:42 PM
Subject: More on Eric's capture and release
Sorry I missed a beat while I was busy traveling and having computer trouble. What happened was that after Eric was detained and released on Sunday, he and two others were again busted on their way back to Nablus Monday. Below is a report of Rae's call to Lisa Tuesday morning. Then, the following report (just now received) gives information that I have not received directly from Rae or Eric. Rae called me today from Tel Aviv airport just as they were getting on the plane, so all is well with them.
I talked with Rae this morning (Tues., July 2, about 10:30AM EST & 5:30PM in Palestine). When I reached her on her cell phone she was hiking through the hills and valley that Eric and Co. (two internationals) were expected to come through on their way to Nablus(in aversion of checkpoints). Eric had not arrived in Nablus today, and so with the help of 7 new internationals and a few others from ISM, Rae is gathering information as to their whereabouts. The group went to the village Eric had supposedly stopped in last night. A local, from that village, spoke with someone in the group. He claims that a Palestinian car was stopped @ around 8:00pm by the Israeli army. [It is possible that the three had gotten a ride from a Palestinian and were then picked up by the army since no locals in the area are said to be missing.]
Rae stressed that we are not to make any calls to the Embassy or Consulate -as the US consulate has already been contacted. A friendly and helpful woman there is working hard to find out whether or not the army picked up Eric and the internationals. The group of three consists of two Americans and one British man, so we have the help of the British Consulate as well. The British consulate has been helpful in the past when dealing with the Israeli military and the release of detained internationals, so we are in good shape with their extra efforts. Also, it is possible that the army will contact the consulate as they are required to do so within 24 hrs of picking up internationals. Love, Lisa
Harry spoke with Rae and gave me a call to say that the US consulate did not find Eric in any police stations. There are other places that the military could have taken him if they picked him up last night and so they are still calling around. Despite the current situation, a family has insisted on having a special dinner for Rae, Eric, and another woman as Eric and Rae are due to leave tomorrow. (it is insulting to refuse such a gift)
I will let you know if I hear more. Lisa
GREAT GREAT NEWS!!!!
Rae called delivering a very exciting message- "ERIC IS SAFE!!" He has been released and she was able to talk with him herself. It was a very quick conversation between the two of us, and so I didn't get info as to where he was being held or where he is now. I only know that he is safe and they are planning to make their flight from Tel Aviv and so I let her run off as they have just over 7 hrs. to do so. Let's hope the checkpoints are not trouble for them and visualize them making it back smoothly. I imagine they will be back before we know it.
INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT http://www.palsolidarity.org
July 3, 2002 17:00 [Palestine] [7 AM Pacific]
For immediate release
Two Americans, one Brit held captive by Israeli Army
Held in inhumane conditions, denied access to consulates
[NABLUS] At 1600 Monday July 01, 2002 Israeli soldiers took Eric Levine, an American human rights worker, Brian Dominick, an American medical worker, and Peter Blacker, a British medical worker to an army occupied house near Nablus where they were made to stay under inhuman conditions, with no explanation, for over 45 hours.
They were put in a small unfinished room, out in the open. They remained in the open day and night without adequate shelter from the heat or nighttime cold. They were given one meal a day consisting of canned food and not allowed to use toilet facilities. The men repeatedly asked why they were being held and requested to make phone calls to their family and consulates, but were denied. Soldiers yelled at them, pushed them and told them that if they tried to leave they would be shot.
Today at approximately 1600 [6 AM Pacific] the men were released in a remote location near Nablus, whereby they made their way into Nablus on foot. The two medical workers are now with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) in Nablus, and Eric is due to be on a flight back to the United States tonight.
The Israeli Army has thus far not given either the ISM or consular officials any explanation as to why these men were abducted, treated inhumanely and held incommunicado for two days.
For more information contact:
Brian Dominick 972 (0) 56 621 928
Peter Blacker +44 79 74 236 541
For information on the International Solidarity Movement contact:
Huwaida Arraf: 052-642-709
[Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian-American and an ISM organizer.]
July 4. Rae called this morning to report that she and Eric are safely in Connecticut. She says they were not hassled at the airport leaving Israel, though many other people have been extensively interrogated.
Both of them will be back on line soon. Rae will be back to Seattle tomorrow night.
First of all, both my mother and I have safely returned to Connecticut. I would like to thank all of you very very much for all of your support while we were in Palestine, especially those of you who called, faxed and/or e-mailed the U.S. consulate while I was detained and those of you who passed along e-mails to other people, disseminating necessary information about the dire situation of the Palestinian people (also the number 1 request of all Palestinian people I met, "please tell people what is happening here").
The last 48 hours or so in Palestine was a bit on the absurd side, as I disappeared along with 2 other internationals and 2 Palestinian men, as we were illegally abducted and held captive by the Israeli Army for 48 hours with no contact to anyone. In rare fashion, the U.S. consulate has said that it will be making a formal complaint to the Israeli government about this illegal detention and below I have pasted in the account that I sent to the consulate of the event. I apologize as the narrative is a bit starchy and unedited, as I was trying to get an account written as soon as possible, but it does serve to highlight merely one of the unjust practices that Palestinian people are subject to that receives little if any attention in the international press and almost never reaches our eyes and ears in the U.S.. Please forward to anybody you wish.
I can be reached again on my U.S. number, (203) 901-3540, or by e-mail. Again, thank you very much for all of your support and I hope you all continue to be actively engaged in supporting the non-violent struggle of the Palestinian people to end the unjust and brutal Israeli occupation. There is still much, much work to be done.
Account of Being Illegally Detained by the Israeli Defense Force
Written by Eric Levine on July 4th, 2002
Between July 1st and July 3rd, 2002, I was abducted and held captive by the Israeli Defense Force along with one American man, one British man and two Palestinian men. Throughout the duration of our detention we were denied access to telephone usage, refused explanation as to the reason for our detention and kept in inhumane conditions under armed guard. We were threatened on several occasions that we would be shot if we attempted to leave the area.
Background. At about 1:00 PM on July 1st, 2002, I left Jerusalem in a taxi for Nablus in the West Bank. I was in the company of Brian Dominick, an American paramedic, and Peter Blacker, a British volunteer medical worker. We were all intending to enter Nablus to help with the delivery of essential medical services and serve as human rights observers and activists as part of the International Solidarity Movement’s Freedom Summer Campaign, supporting the non-violent resistance of the Palestinian people to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I was returning to Nablus after having spent the previous week (along with several other international volunteers) helping the UPMRC ambulance service deliver medical supplies and services. We had also participated in a peaceful demonstration along with local Palestinian organizations protesting the 24-hour curfew imposed on Nablus by the IDF. In addition, on June 30th, while attempting to determine the heath and safety of a Palestinian family locked in a room of their house by IDF soldiers who were occupying the home, we were assaulted with tear-gas and percussion grenades, and I was punched in the head and dragged approximately twenty feet on my stomach over dirt and rocks by IDF soldiers with no warning, request to vacate the area or explanation for violent treatment. I was then taken to the Huwara IDF base, and on to Ariel police station, where I was released after waiting three hours and a short interrogation by a police captain (Yakov Golan, #943563).
On July 1st, Nablus was under strict 24-hour curfew, and on the recommendation of friends in Nablus, our taxi took us along the back road through the village of Borin in the direction of Tell village. Our taxi driver drove until we encountered several large ditches (8-10 feet long, 4-5 feet deep and as wide as the entire dirt road) dug by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) bulldozers as part of operations that have sealed off all exit and entry points to Nablus and the surrounding villages for motorized transport (a common practice in all major cities in the West Bank). We proceeded from that point on foot and were soon joined by two Palestinian men, Akhmed and Mejdi, headed along the same route.
We walked about five (5) kilometers around the twists and turns of the dirt road. During this time, I telephoned my mother and Mejdi telephoned his wife (both in Nablus) to inform them of our status and that we expected to arrive shortly. At around 3:30 PM, while we were taking a short rest in the shade offered by a large rock at the side of the road, an army jeep coming from the direction of Nablus approached and stopped in front of us. Mejdi spoke briefly with the soldier in the passenger seat of the jeep in Hebrew. The soldier, without requesting any identification, instructed us to continue on to Nablus.
We continued along the same road for approximately another 200 meters, rounding the last bend in the road before descending into Nablus and were stopped by the voice of an Israeli sniper positioned in the third story window of the first building on our left (at this point we were standing in the entry/exit intersection above the Nablus neighborhood of ‘Matfiya’ – not sure of spelling). The soldier, holding an M-16 pointed down to the road in front of us, instructed us to stop (which we did), and called an armored personnel carrier (APC), which arrived quickly. The APC appeared from the road to our left and two soldiers emerged, a lieutenant (short, blond hair, light skin, about 20 yrs. old, little spoken English) and a private (medium height, olive skin, about 18 yrs. old, no spoken English) with M-16s at shoulder level pointed at us.
We were instructed to line up on the side of the road and the lieutenant called each of us over one at a time, examining our passports and searching our bags, while the private guarded the rest of the group. During my turn, the lieutenant inquired as to my reason for coming to Nablus. I responded stating my intention to continue helping the ambulance services deliver necessary medicines and services. The lieutenant kept our passports and they were not returned to us for the next 48 hours.
After this initial examination, the lieutenant called the two Palestinian men over one by one, berated them in a loud angry tone, and instructed them to continue down the road into Nablus, which they did. I was then called over by the lieutenant and was told that we (Peter, Brian, and me) needed to come with the soldiers to "answer a few questions". At this point, the lieutenant motioned for Brian and Peter to join me next to the APC, and produced plastic handcuffs (commonly used by IDF soldiers and stored in the handles of M-16 rifles). We were handcuffed behind our backs, and instructed to enter the rear door of the APC. When asked why we were being detained and handcuffed, the lieutenant gestured up the hill and said, "everything will be okay". Being stopped by soldiers is very common in the West Bank. As we had not expected to be handcuffed without justification or explanation, we had not telephoned anyone to explain our whereabouts or our abduction. Once handcuffed we were unable to contact anyone for obvious reasons.
Abduction. At approximately 4:00 PM, we were transported in the APC to one of the buildings occupied by IDF soldiers in the most recent incursion which overlooks Nablus from the southern hill above Matfiya. We were placed, still handcuffed behind the back, in a stairway leading down from the ground and guarded by a soldier with an M-16 in his lap. We were instructed to sit and wait. The soldiers refused to answer all questions regarding the reason for our abduction and treatment as well as what was going to happen.
We waited in this position for about an hour, observing soldiers unload food and beverage supplies from an APC outside, and we could distinctly hear Palestinian children speaking in Arabic from behind the closed door at the bottom of the stairs. We assumed that these were the children who lived in the building, as it is IDF common practice to lock residents in buildings that have been occupied by soldiers, presumably as human shields preventing any attack. After an hour in this position, with no answer regarding what we were being held for or what was going to happen next, a different lieutenant (tall, dark hair, about 20 yrs. old, very good spoken English) approached us and inquired where we were from. After hearing that we were American and British, he cut off our handcuffs, refused to answer any of our questions and instructed us not to use our telephones or cameras.
After another 30 minutes, we were put back in the APC with our bags and driven to another occupied building. This one was still under construction, with power lines strung from a neighboring house, also occupied by soldiers with residents kept captive on the premises. We were led to a senior officer (medium height, dark olive skin, oval face, slightly chipped front tooth, about 35 yrs. old). While this officer refused to give us his name upon request, he was later referred to by younger soldiers as the "big commander of Nablus". Sitting handcuffed on the steps in front of the senior officer and three other soldiers were Mejdi and Akhmed, who we had last seen walking down the road into Nablus. Mejdi informed us that they had been detained and abducted by a patrol of soldiers about 100 meters into Nablus.
The senior officer examined our passports, handed to him by the first lieutenant, and asked us if we were press reporters. We responded that we were not, and informed him of our intention in Nablus (described earlier). He asked us three or four times what we were intending to do in Nablus, to which we responded repeatedly that we intended to assist the ambulance services in the delivery of medical services and supplies. Brian had been doing this kind of work with the red Crescent for six weeks in Ramallah, and Peter and I had been doing so with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees in Nablus the previous week. The senior officer then took our mobile phones and all film from our cameras and bags (all of which was blank) and placed them in a plastic bag along with our passports.
Refusal to Explain Detention by Senior Officer. The senior officer told us that we would have to wait there for the police to come and get us. We inquired as to what we were being detained for, to which the officer responded that we had "broken the law". When we inquired as to which law we had broken, the officer responded that we had "broken a military order". When we inquired as to what military order we had broken, the officer responded that we had entered a closed military area. When we informed the officer that we had followed the orders of soldiers in a jeep on the road approaching Nablus, and that we had in fact not entered Nablus at all, the officer responded that we had "wanted to enter a closed military area". Our requests for documentation as to what military area we had entered were refused. At no point were we shown any proof that the area we had been walking in, or any other area was a closed military area. The senior officer then told us that we would have to spend the night at this location and the police would come for us in the morning. Our requests to him for a phone call were refused.
We were led to an outdoor patio area, six paces by six paces, and told that we would spend the night there. The patio area led to a two-sided door of metal bars locked from the inside by a wooden beam rigged up with steel reebar. A soldier armed with an M-16 rifle guarded us from this position at all times. We were instructed not to leave the patio area for any reason. After inquiring what would happen if we left the patio area, we were told that we would be shot. We were held captive in this area until approximately 2:30 PM on July 3rd.
Refusal to Allow Telephone Usage. We requested the use of a telephone to call our families, consulates, friends and lawyers at regular intervals throughout the duration of our illegal detention and were refused. The soldiers said that they had orders not to permit the use of a telephone. Beginning the morning after our abduction, I began to request (in addition to requests for telephone usage) that one of the soldiers call my mother and Mejdi’s wife to inform them of our status and relative safety. All these requests were refused. At one point I wrote my mother’s mobile phone number on a strip of paper and requested that any of the soldiers call her to let her know that I was alive. These requests were also refused repeatedly.
Repeated Refusal to Explain Detention by Soldiers. We inquired regularly as to the reason for our abduction and status as captives, and were told only that we had violated some military order. None of the soldiers present had any knowledge of our initial abduction and therefore responded that they had orders to hold us and shoot us if we tried to leave. When we informed soldiers of the illegality of this detention, they agreed that it was in fact probably illegal, but that the military could do "anything it wants". Our requests for a senior officer to explain the reason for our detention were denied or responded to with an excuse regarding why a senior officer never appeared (e.g. the senior officers were in a meeting, a commander’s jeep broke down, the senior officers had promised they would come shortly). After the initial conversation with the older senior officer, we were never permitted to speak to anyone above the rank of lieutenant, except for a five second conversation with a captain at about 1 PM on the second day of our abduction who promised us that we would be attended to within two hours. This did not happen. The officers present were: Amos Yamin, sergeant (Sgt. Yasmin’s name and rank were written from inscriptions on his uniform, he refused to give us his serial number but was present at the location for almost the entirety of our detention), 1 unnamed lieutenant who refused to give us his name, rank and serial number (short, about 20 yrs. old, blond hair, blue eyes); and Guy Aaaronsohn, platoon leader, number 7030779 (Lt. Aaronsohn gave us his name rank and serial number on request but was only present for a total of about 30 minutes on July 3rd).
Forced Illegal Detention in Inhumane Conditions. We were forced to remain outside on the patio for the entirety of our illegal detention, baking under the sun during the day and freezing in the cold wind at night. We were occasionally allowed to sit under the small roof by the guarded door (which provided the only shade during the day) depending on which soldier was on guard. This space only provided shade for 2 people at a time. On one occasion a soldier chambered a round into his M-16 rifle and shoved it through the bars at my chest in a threatening manner, because I was too close to the gate. On the second day, after more than 24 hours of requests for telephone usage and explanation of the reason of our illegal detention, I picked up my bag and informed the soldiers that I was leaving. I walked around the corner of the building (approximately 20 feet) at which point I was surrounded by 5 soldiers pointing M-16 rifles and threatening to shoot me if I did not return to the patio. I returned to the patio.
We were not allowed access to toilet facilities. We were, on request allowed to relieve ourselves on the other side of the wall of our patio location. No inquiries were made as to our need for medical aid. We were given one meal a day, consisting of several cans of IDF supplies (corn and beans) and shortbread. We were given limited quantities of water after exhausting the supplies from our bags. Requests for cigarettes were also denied.
Additional Violations Witnessed During Illegal Detention. While illegally detained in this patio location we witnessed several incidences worth mention:
1. During the evening of July 1st, the entirety of July 2nd and the morning and early afternoon of July 3rd, we watched people on foot, in ambulances, and on donkeys enter Nablus via the same intersection that we had been originally abducted from, proving that either: 1) Nablus was not a "closed military zone" and we had attempted to do nothing illegal; or 2) detention is random and arbitrary. We pointed these occurrences out to the soldiers present each time and they shook their heads and said that we "did not understand the situation". The ever-changing status of "military orders" and random and arbitrary nature of detention is consistent with many acts I witnessed during my stay in the West Bank.
2. From our patio position we witnessed on multiple occasions, IDF soldiers firing at or near ambulances and civilians attempting to enter or leave Nablus by the above-mentioned intersection. This always happened initially at a distance of more than 40 feet, making it unlikely that any verbal communication was exchanged before firing commenced. This unnecessary use of force on unarmed civilians and emergency vehicles is consistent with other acts I witnessed by IDF soldiers on a regular basis during my stay in the West Bank.
3. On one occasion, an Israeli ambulance (a white van marked only with a red star of David inside a red circle) arrived at the other occupied building on the hill below our position. Six armed IDF soldiers exited the rear of the ambulance, stopping before entering the house to unchamber bullets from their M-16 rifles (indicating that they had been loaded and chambered while in the ambulance). To my knowledge, it is a violation of several international agreements to use ambulances to transport military troops.
At about 2:30 PM on July 3rd, we were handcuffed and blindfolded and led into an APC. The blindfolds were removed after entering the APC. We were then driven down to the IDF Huwara base, and sat in the sun for about a half an hour before our handcuffs were cut off. Shortly after this, Sergeant Amos Yamin instructed us to follow him to the entry gate of the base where he handed us our passports and mobile phones in a plastic bag. Peter’s 11 blank DVD tapes were not returned, estimated at approximately $100US. No explanation was given for our release, just as no explanation was ever given for our detention. We walked free from Huwara base at approximately 4:00 PM on July 3rd, 48 hours after our initial abduction.
Throughout the entirety of the illegal abduction and detention mentioned above, I was in the company of Brian, Peter, Mejdi and Akhmed. Huwaida Arraf of the International Solidarity Movement has taken testimony from both Brian Dominick and Peter Blacker, and can be contacted at 052-642-709 for further information and/or to corroborate this testimony.
I can be reached at (203) 901-3540 in New Haven, Connecticut.
Israel inflicts terror on Palestinians
by Eric Levine
New Haven Register, July 21, 2002
I recently experienced firsthand the current "security measures" being imposed by the Israeli military in the West Bank.
On July 1st, while walking along a dirt road toward the West Bank city of Nablus, I was abducted by Israeli soldiers along with another American, a Briton and two Palestinians. We were taken to a Palestinian residence occupied by the Israeli army, confined to an outdoor patio six paces by six paces, guarded by an armed soldier and informed repeatedly that we would be shot if we attempted to leave. Our passports were taken and our requests for telephone calls were denied. The reason for our detention was never explained.
From our open-air cell, I spent 48 hours witnessing and reflecting on what is conveniently called a "war on terror," but is increasingly a "war of terror" waged on Palestinian civilians.
I saw a ghost town. Nablus' 200,000 residents imprisoned in their homes by a strict 24-hour curfew that threatens bullets for those venturing outside.
By day, armored personnel carriers and tanks patrolled the streets, firing sporadically at children in front of their houses playing soccer.
Below us, a Palestinian family was being held hostage because their home had a nice view and therefore was deemed a strategic military position. This practice, prevalent throughout the West Bank, involves families being locked into the lower rooms of their own homes for weeks and kept as human shields for the Israeli soldiers who turn the upper floors into sandbagged bunkers.
Like most nights, between one and four o'clock in the morning, the firing started. I watched red tracers from large caliber machine guns on the hilltops etch steady arcs across the city, hitting whatever or whomever happened to be in their path.
I fail to see indiscriminate firing on a captive civilian population in the middle of the night as anything but terrorism.
A teen-age soldier chambered a round into his M-16 and shoved the barrel at me because he was tired of my requests to call my mother and tell her that I was still alive. Looking down at the assault rifle meeting my chest, I thought my tax dollars paid for that gun. The irony was lost on the young soldier.
I began to wonder: If 50 mm rounds hit buildings in Brooklyn after midnight, would we call that "terror" or "security measures"? If 700,000 civilians, the equivalent of every major city in Connecticut, were shut in their homes under threat of being shot if found in the street, would the residents of Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, New Haven, Norwalk, and Stamford feel terrorized or call it a necessary tactic in a "war on terror"? If your town was invaded, your home occupied, your family held hostage, would you be outraged or understanding of some "necessary strategic position"?
I think we would call this terror.
After 48 hours of captivity, we were handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a nearby military base. Our passports were returned and we were told to leave on foot. No explanations. No justifications for the arbitrary abuse of power.
President Bush has urged Palestinians to "actively pursue" electing new leaders and political reform and condoned the terror tactics of the Israeli military as a measure of self-defense. Are we forgetting the intrinsic difficulties in pursuing anything while indefinitely imprisoned in one's own home?
Our government strongly and correctly condemns violence against innocent Israeli civilians. Why then do we condone violence against innocent Palestinian civilians? Is terrorism called self-defense if the terrorist is wearing a uniform? The effect is the same for the innocent civilian victims.
As a Jew, I object to the war of terror being waged on the Palestinian civilian population and fearful of what this bodes for the safety and morality of Israel. As an American, I am ashamed that we are financially and publicly supporting terror tactics being used on a civilian population — exactly what we claim to be fighting against.
The United States and British embassies have filed protests on behalf of myself and the other two internationals in the group. Not surprisingly, nobody is taking any action on behalf of the two Palestinian men held captive with us, nor is anybody taking any action on behalf of the Palestinian civilians being held captive by the Israeli military.
The only effort currently being expended is the maintenance of a convenient fiction that allows us to avoid recognizing the terror that Israel is inflicting and that we are supporting.
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