Sunday, October 14, 2007

"Peace" under Occupation

This weekend is Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Like Christmas for devote and not-so-devote Christians, it is not only a time for prayer, reflection, forgiveness and to be thankful, but it is also a time for family, joy and celebration. Over this weekend, my Palestinian friends, whether they be Muslim, Christian or secular in their beliefs will spend time visiting each other and their families and loved ones. They will share gifts, delicious food and each others company. They will give to the less fortunate and celebrate the joys of life. However, like so many Eid’s that have gone before in Palestine, this year’s Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated once again under the shadow of the illegal and sadistic Israeli occupation.

As a result, my friends and their families, along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinian families in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, this Eid will also remember their loved ones who have died at the hands of the illegal Israeli occupation or can not be with them to celebrate the holiday because they are languishing, often with out charge or trail, in Israel’s prisons. Many others will have their festivities, family celebration and holiday time brought to an abrupt halt by an occupation force that has no respect for another peoples’ human, civil or democratic rights.

Already over the course of Eid al-Fitr, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) has conducted several missile strikes on Gaza, ensuring the Palestinian death toll increases once again. In the Occupied West Bank, the Israeli war machine has conducted a series of raids on a number of Palestinian communities, abducting and detaining more Palestinian civilians. In other parts of the Occupied West Bank, they have carried out other military operations, invading peaceful villages and terrorising the local population.

Today, on the third day of Eid, myself and another IWPS colleague were called to the village of Dier Istyia in Salfit. The IOF had once again invaded the village (a regular occurrence over the past two months) and took over one of the houses in the village. All of the family, except for the four youngest daughters aged between 6 and 16 years of age, were out of the house harvesting their olives (many of the rural family’s use the last day of the Eid holiday, when family members do not have to go to paid work, to go to their fields to harvest their trees).

According to the young girls and the neighbours who came to their aid, 8 Israel occupation soldiers forced their way into the house and then used the young girls as human shields, forcing them to accompany the invading soldiers to the roof where an illegal military observation and surveillance post was established (under international law, not only is the invasion of civilian property illegal, it is also illegal under international and Israeli law to use civilians as human shields).

Later as we sat with the family taking their testimonies, the two youngest girls, aged 6 and 9, kept shyly staring and smiling at me and my team mate. As I sat there, I could only imagine how scared these little girls must have been to have 8 huge men that they did not know, decked out with automatic rifles, grenades and other high grade weaponry burst into their home. How terrifying it must have been to be forced, against their will, to act as human shields. All I could think as I sat there was what sort of psychological damage must this do to a young, vulnerable and impressionable child.

Over the Eid al-Fitr festival, the brutal Israeli occupation will continue unabated. At the same time, Israel will continue to announce to the world that it a true seeker of peace.

As Israel speaks of peace, the “on-the-ground” content of Israel’s “peace package”, however, reveals the hollowness of its rhetoric. During the last month alone, before the festival of Eid, during the holy month of Ramadan (13 September to 11 October), Israel’s idea of “peace” saw its occupation forces claimed the lives of 24 Palestinians, 3 of them children.

During this holy month, the Israeli state and the “most moral army in the world”, also wounded another 95 Palestinians, 26 of whom were children. During this same month, when Israel had been telling the world it wanted peace (yet again), its government voted to illegally and collectively punish 1.4 million Palestinian civilians – men, women and children - in the Gaza by cutting of their electricity, their gas supplies, water and other basic amenities, thus breaching international law and the Fourth Geneva convention to which Israel is a signatory.

As part of Israel’s “peace package” during the holy month of Ramadan, Israel’s war machine carried out military assaults on 97 Palestinian communities in the West Bank, ensuring thousands of Palestinian families were terrorised and traumatised. And while Israel made a big deal on the world stage of releasing 92 Palestinian prisoners from its jails, supposedly as a Ramadan goodwill gesture and in order to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, its occupation forces kidnapped and detained almost twice that number (172 in total, mainly from the West Bank) during the holy month ensuring that there would be more Palestinians languish in Israel’s prisons at the end of the month of Ramadan than at the beginning (the current figure now exceeds 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners)

The month of Ramadan, also saw the so-called “peaceniks” of the Israeli Zionist state sanction the razing and destruction of 370 dunams of Palestinian agricultural land, destroying the livelihood of hundreds of Palestinian families, as part of Israel’s renewed “peace package”. They also authorised the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlements and continued to construct the Apartheid Wall and stole another 1,130 dunams of Palestinian land in Occupied East Jerusalem. During this same period, “the most moral army in the world” left hundreds of Palestinians homeless by demolishing 23 Palestinian homes and destroying two apartment blocks.

During the holy month of Ramadan, the “peaceniks” of the Israeli Zionist state fostered peaceful relationships with the Palestinian people by preventing tens of thousands of Palestinians from accessing their holy sites, including preventing them from praying at the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount in Occupied East Jerusalem and forcibly closing the Ibrahim Mosque in Occupied Hebron for 9 days during the holy month.

During Ramadan, the Palestinian people also marked the 7th anniversary of the Al Aqsa Intifada, mourning the death of 4,329 Palestinians, of whom 3,413 were civilians, including 805 children. While Israel played pretend games of peace, Palestinians remember the 23,245 Palestinians, wounded by Israel’s war machine and that it had destroyed more than 38,350 dunams of Palestinian land, as well as 5861 Palestinian homes, either completely or partially, leaving thousands upon thousands of Palestinian men, women and children homeless.

As American academic and writer on the Middle East, Joseph Massad, noted in his March article, “Israel’s Right to Be Racist” ( which appeared in Egypt’s Ahram Weekly, Israel’s idea of peace is to be allowed, unchallenged, to impose apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza (as well as Occupied East Jerusalem) There can, however, never be “peace under occupation”, as the Palestinian people know from bitter experience.

As Eid al-Fitr draws to a close, I will marvel once again at the resilience of the Palestinian people and their ability to remain samoud (steadfast) in the face of such adversity. I will, once again, be inspired by the ability of so many Palestinians to open their hearts to others, to be able to love and forgive, despite all that has been done to them. And I will, once again, wonder if any of us had to endure what the Palestinian people have endured for so long, could we do the same?

As Eid al-Fitr draws to a close, the Palestinian people will continue in their struggle for justice and freedom and they will continue to demand an end to the Israeli occupation - as a real and lasting peace can only start to be built when an occupied people are no longer occupied.

Eid Marbarak to all...
(Happy Eid to all...)

1 comment:

Yishai Kohen said...

Next Eid there won't be a "Palestine" here in Israel either, and if the Philistines keep trying to commit terror and ethnically clease us Jews, then their lot will be even worse.

My guess is that they WILL continue down this self-destructive path, and will end with them all living elsewhere.

Karma, you know.