"If you are NEUTRAL in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor"
The struggle continues in and out of "detention facilities"
Below is the press release we issued today and below it is a letter from a Palestinian woman to the solidarity activists. We have been up with little sleep over the past 4 days. Each day required dealing with hundreds of issues and overcoming many obstacles. Today for example with three events (Beit Sahour, Aida then Checkpoint 300, and Al-Walaja) required dealing with a lot of obstacles including a number of friction points with the Israeli army and attempting to get around their blocks. But the one image that sticks in my mind is the sight of the children at Aida Refugee Camp playing in front of Al-Rowwad center with the international volunteers. The sight was priceless.
The words of Vittorio kept flashing through my mind all day: stay human. The last few days, humanity shone and had to rise-up to the challenge of facing inhumanity, repression, and fascism. Stay human indeed.
“Welcome to Palestine” Press Release #5
Israeli authorities set stringent conditions for release of "Welcome to Palestine" prisoners. The large majority of international visitors are still incarcerated under brutal conditions, begin a hunger strike in Israeli jail
Bethlehem, July 10, 2011. Over 120 internationals attempting to visit Palestine were arrested and are still being illegally detained in two Israeli detention centers, in Ramle and in Beer Al-Saba’ (Beersheva). These friends of Palestine, among which there are minors and elderly persons with medical conditions, have been and are being mistreated and subjected to unnecessary brutality.
For example, Dr. Hikmat Al-Sabty, 57, of Rostock, Germany, is being denied needed medication that is in his suitcase; this was reported to his wife by the German Embassy in Tel Aviv, but his wife has not been allowed to speak with him directly. All of those detained have stated repeatedly that they are non-violent and want only to accept the invitation to visit together with Palestinian friends in the program "Welcome to Palestine."
The Israeli authorities released two older German men from prison yesterday, but only on condition that they sign an Israeli legal document that was presented to them only in Hebrew and English. One of the two men came to Bethlehem. He is uncertain of the full contents of the Israeli paper he signed because his English is not good, and he was unable to first consult with his attorney in Israel before signing the paper: the Israeli authorities yesterday made attorney access to prisoners very difficult, and large number of those detained can only be seen by their attorneys today and tomorrow.
The German man now in Palestine believes that he has agreed in writing not to go to Ramallah, Jenin, and certain other Palestinian cities, but that the Israeli authorities have allowed that he to go to "tourist" areas in the West Bank. Because he is still uncertain of the full content of the Israeli document he signed, he prefers not to give his name at this time. The Israeli authorities refused, in violation of international law, to give him a copy of the paper he signed. His attorney is seeking to obtain a copy of the document he signed from the Israeli authorities.
We received a letter from the Belgian group in Bersheeva prison, who state that they began a hunger strike last night. In the letter, the Belgians demand, on behalf of all the prisoners, to have contact their families and with their attorneys. They demand an international investigation into the behavior of airline companies and Israeli officials. They also demand to be able to have contact with each other in the Israeli prison. For example, because the French and Belgian men and women are separated in the prison, the men do not know whether the women are also aware of the hunger strike. It is believed that the French men have joined the hunger strike. According to the Germans who were released, the German men and women there are also participating in the hunger strike, but the men and women are not allowed to speak with each other.
Those few international guests who were able to reach Bethlehem on Friday were invited by their Palestinian hosts to go to either to a demonstration in Qalandia at noon or else to attend a gathering in Bilin at 11 am, from which they then joined Palestinian friends in NebiSaleh. There Israeli soldiers prevented the bus-loads of passengers and local Palestinians and Israeli supporters from holding a peaceful demonstration. The Israeli forces shot stun grenades and at least two kinds of tear gas canisters at them. The nearby agricultural fields were set ablaze by these tear-gas canisters. The Israeli forces illegally detained -- kidnapped -- four peace activists, including three Israeli citizens and one Brazilian. Several participants were injured.
Events planned continued. Today, there was a gathering in Beit Sahour in front of the Greek Orthodox Church, an event at Aida Refugee Camp and an event in Al-Walaja.
A letter from a Palestinian woman to the supporters of Palestine.
I would like to talk to you as the voice of the thousands of Palestinians who appreciate what you are doing. You who have a great commitment to human rights and who actually act upon your beliefs. You risk your life to both witness and tell the truth of what you see. You are a group of people who understand what is happening in the holy land and have decided to dedicate your time, money and energy to the issue. You demonstrate that religion nor race is important when it comes to standing up for the rights human beings. And every step you take justice and humanity wins.
I want you to trust that your actions are making a difference and changing the violence we see here in our land. Your solidarity is helping fuel our non violent fight. Palestinians face many kinds of violence and torture, however, being ignored is the worst punishment of all. Those who refuse to hear and see us are just as bad as those who occupy us. Those who stand in solidarity with us send a strong message of humanity and are helping us to overcome our suffering. In the middle of all this crisis, your help puts a smile on our face. From this smile you will always be welcome in our hearts even if you are unable to enter our land.
Your solidarity reminds the world that we are all one human family and that we Palestinians are still part of it. Please do not give up. Even if your boats do not make it to the shores of Gaza or if your planes refuse to fly, the unseen effects are still huge.
I want to say thank you for all that your work involves. Thank you for booking your tickets, taking time off from work, leaving your loved ones, and for all of the other small things, I am truly grateful.
Please continue to be with us, hand in hand, in our non-violent struggle. We need to reach the end of the path of occupation and your presence on this journey is crucial, we cannot make it alone.
I hope one day to share a coffee with you in my home or in yours, for when this day comes we will have reached our freedom.