Under the Occupation 

Protecting a home / Huwaida Arraf, International Solidarity Movement

Jennie writes from Dheisheh

The New York Daily News last week carried an editorial calling the international peace activists arrested and being deported by Israel for peacefully protesting violations of human rights and international law, " Accessories to terrorism " .

We operate according to the quote below.

"Individuals have International duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace & humanity. " Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950

August 10, 2002

Hello to you all from the heart of Palestine.

I'm writing to you from Deheishe refugee camp in the West Bank where I have been since Tuesday. It has been an extremely powerful experience so far; so hard to communicate in an email, so I will do more of this when I return. I am keeping a journal for this purpose--to help sort through my thoughts and record what is happening here, so my energy is focused where it needs to be--in the present situation. The pain is so great.

We are staying with a family to protect their home from being destroyed--we more than likely won't be able to prevent this, but our presence is showing solidarity with them and creating a bit of hope, at some level anyway. The family calls me daughter and have welcomed me into their 'beit' (home). I so wish to come back here, but it looks as though I will be deported if the soldiers come--it is their policy for Internationals--they don't want anyone who might create a better situation for the Palestinians here, even if it's only providing a piece of hope. The news, and details I must save for when I return and have more time, because curfew is coming, and we must be off the streets before the soldiers come. They shoot indiscriminately at people, children, women, and from a distance, I could appear Palestinian. Last night they fired on a group of little boys in the street for walking after curfew started. Little boys--and they fired from an armed tank.

As for the people, culture and such, I am sooooo welcomed and love it back. The food is delicious, and the people's hearts so big, so generous even with nothing to share. They ask me when I am coming back... Indeed I have considered another trip back together if I don't get deported. The presence of Internationals is desperately needed--they help to prevent heinous crimes against the Palestinians--the degree of which I have not been aware of previously with the exception of the SS Nazis, S. Africa, Tibet & Istanbul. It is hard to communicate the degree of these, and I will be writing up the stories I have gathered upon my return. There is just too, too, much. Every person has so many stories...

Regarding restriction of movement for Palestinians, this goes for Americans or Internationals as well--soldiers don't double check in the dark--they shoot first. 'Curfew' is imposed daily, and they shoot anything in the streets. Palestinians movements are always restricted and watched. That is just another part of life here; there is so much... I don't know where to start... I can only do what I can there; sometimes the Israelis even shoot Americans (a 'mistake' of course) intending to hit a Palestinian, and although the hatred for the American Gov't is strong here, the people are very peaceful (I cannot emphasize this enough!!!!) and wish us well--are glad of our presence here. It gives them hope that someday there may be peace. There are a small number of Palestinians who have been pushed over the edge--I hesitate to communicate this, because there is TOOOO much misinformation in the American media already about all of them being terrorists--but to put it into perspective,!

they just snapped from seeing to much violence--living through too much. I wonder if Americans experienced this degree, this EXTREME human rights abuse, how far we could hold out peacefully?

My family and the people I stay with will ensure my safety--indeed I have walked through the camp with one or a couple of people and felt completely safe, and I am not concerned about it. The family I am staying with is being punished for something they had no idea about--last March their daughter went into Jerusalem with a bomb in a market place, they said she snapped after watching her neighbor get shot on the street outside her home by Israelis in an Apache, this is not the first thing I'm sure--coming after her family's home--20 people, 6 families. Collective punishment is what that is called, and it is illegal according to the Geneva Convention. Their son has been in prison since May for the crime of being her brother with no release date in sight.

I have been a little sick this morning; not sure how much is nerves, how much is related to the sugar (they give us a lot of 'shai' -- tea with a lot of sugar) and how much is due to drinking the local water which is broken--the Israelis regularly destroy the water pipes and the supply is contaminated. The GSE I have helps, but this is still so stressful... Hard to say. The soldiers threaten to come each day--we return home and have a night with the family each day and then eat, visit, discuss the situation here, and life as a Palestinian, and such...and then wait until around 2am, which is their favorite time to start bombings. If we can make it until daylight, we are safe. The family’s furniture is all gone, in preparation for the home demolition. If they do succeed in blowing it up, they will destroy at least 10 other homes that are in close proximity or share walls--this is a modest estimate. It is hard to be strong sometimes, but as an American, I have a certain!

degree of protection against them, especially if the US Consulate and Embassy are receiving word about our staying there, and a few of the other human rights observers here (there are 7 in our group--4 at the other home) have a network that has been hounding the Consulate and Embassy about our safety and asking details, and such. The US Consulate & Embassy don't want to help the Internationals here who are interested in human rights; they are very lax about responding and only do what is expected by law--the bare minimum with respect to their obligations.

I will give you the numbers once again just in case. They are: US Consulate-- 011 972 2 622 7230 (last part 250 if emergency) & the US Embassy-- 011 972 3 519 7575. Bug 'em. It's their job and they pretty much suck at it, although I'm sure the affection the United States Gov't has for Israel has something to do with that. God forbid we should want to stop such blatant human rights abuse.

In the event that the soldiers come, we are probably going to be physically removed from the house, even though we will try to stay together by locking arms. Then when the military holds us, or detains us (as they can't arrest us--that's the police's job) they will turn us over to the police and from there we can face up to 24 hrs in jail before we get a chance to speak to anyone from ISM (International Solidarity Movement, the peace org. I'm here with) or anyone else for that matter. We will try to resist deportation, but that's up in the air. If so, the ISM office will contact my partner Nate, and set the legal protection wheels in motion. They will work hard for us, and I will do everything in my power to be released freely--we have done nothing wrong, unless you consider protecting a family's home something wrong--and sent back with my plane tickets on the 18th from Tel Aviv. I will do my best not to be deported so I can come back sometime. (smiles)

I feel vulnerable at times, but only when the soldiers come. Otherwise, it has been a life changing experience, and my heart is so full, it comes out through tears sometimes. The pain is so great.... I don't know where to start....

Gosh, I have to go because my group is waiting to meet before beating the tanks that come with curfew. I wish you all the best, and ask that you consider what is happening here, and the information you receive through the media is heavily biased. I will provide you all with the stories of this trip if you'd like when I return; the time for the computer lab is limited and the connection slow.

Until I see you all again I remain your friend in peace & love.