Newsletter June 2021 | Machsomwatch
אורנית, מהצד הזה של הגדר

Newsletter June 2021

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Monday, 7 June, 2021



                  Photo: Tomer Apelbaum



In the past two months all red lines have been crossed: racism echoes far and wide, as does incitement against Israel’s Arab minority, who literally became second class citizens with the passing of the Nation-State Bill in 2018.
For years, the volunteers of MachsomWatch have seen racism, violation of human rights, landgrab, house demolitions and brutal violence towards Palestinians in the occupied West Bank – all under the aegis of the Israeli establishment and army. For years, the poison of the occupation has been seeping into Israeli society and institutions and into the minds of its citizens. During this year of the pandemic and ongoing protests against a corrupt Prime Minister and his administration, methods of control and oppression have been easily ‘imported’ from Palestine into the streets of Israel-proper.

Lately, The rate of house demolitions and land expulsions of Palestinians have increased rapidly in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem; Arab-Israelis are being pushed out of Jaffa and other ‘mixed cities’ (Acco, Lydd, Ramle).
During Ramadan this year, Police and Border Police break into the Temple Mount compound (Al Aqsa) and hurl stun grenades into the mosques. 
Suddenly Jewish protestors and activists are arrested as they head to demonstrate, and Arab Israelis are prevented from reaching the Temple Mount for prayers.
No one stops the violence and the rampant racism, not in the West Bank nor inside Israel. Who can halt this at a time when extremist thugs have made it into the front tiers of government, the 'hilltop youth' are no longer rotten apples but rather 'young farmer settlers' and the Israeli police often acts as a political militia?

We present here the latest events in Israel alongside the observations of MachsomWatch volunteers from their activity in the West Bank during these past two months. It is easy to see that the demons of the Occupation have gained power, crossed boundaries and lit the flames inside Israel and the entire region.


See What We Have Done in 2020


When the wind picks up, dispossession and plunder thrive

In early March 2021, Ariel University invites its students to volunteer and serve as guards in illegal settler-colonist outposts, thus gaining study creditsThe law of regulating ‘The Young settlement’ comes up for debate, is blocked, and then approved by first reading in MayIsraeli police turn violent at the peaceful Sheikh Jarrah demonstrations protesting the expulsion of the neighborhood’s Palestinian residents from their homesMember of Knesset Ben Gvir sets up an ‘office’ for the defense of the settlers in Sheikh Jarrah on May 6.


 An acre and an acre there… This is the latest tactic of land grabbing by settlers - establishing small ranches. They erect two structures on a hill, pave a road, bring cattle and horses. They do not give a damn about the locals and simply grab grazing lands. Fiad from Zanouta in the South Hebron Hills tells us, that the new settler is Ilay Federman (son of Noam, an infamous settler-colonist leader), who adheres to his father’s views. Every morning Ilay flies his drone, seeing where Palestinian flocks are grazing, and then brings his own flocks there. Ilay has strong backing – the settlers' ‘Amana’ movement has adopted this new method… We have already seen such farms near Negohot, Pnei Kedem, Asael – all settlers. Amana has bragged that they have already ‘conquered’ 1,000 dunams and there are plenty more to come… Might makes right and despair reigns… 
South Hebron Hills, April 5, 2021, Hagit B


 We hear complaints made by shepherds from Fasail, telling us that Elhanan of the settler outpost ‘Angels of Peace’ has been chasing them away from their own grazing grounds because “this whole area from Maale Efraim to Auja belongs to me!” (thousands of acres all within firing zones.) He carries firearms and threatens them. Are the dozens of shepherds from Fasail to meet the same destiny as that of the shepherds of En Rashsh, whom we accompanied until they gave up a year ago and are now grazing only right next to their homes? 
Jordan Valley, April 21, 2021, Nurit P, Tzvia S, Daphne B


 7am Auja. The 3 flocks belonging to Umm Rasheed, a local Palestinian resident, were grazing on the hill about 100 meters from the restaurant recently founded by Omer Yedidiya’s illegal settler outpost – En Ayanot. We accompanied shepherds on the opposite hill, when suddenly an army jeep emerged, a soldier and a woman-officer disembark and demand that Umm Rasheed leave the hill with her flocks. In vain, Umm Rasheed and her son try to argue. The officer stood silent and said she was waiting for a WhatsApp message. We asked the soldier if he had a written order, he said there was no need. We asked whether he was ordered by his army superiors or by Omer the settler. He answered that they are one and the same - Umm Rasheed must leave. We were amazed to hear openly on the army radio, that the army is subject to the demands of a settler from an illegal outpost. 
Jordan Valley, April 29, 2021, Nava and Micki


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Ramadan 2021 in Qalandiya & Nablus Gate                      

Photos: Tamar Fleishman, Anat Tueg

The Flames of Ramadan

 On the morning of April 13, the first day of Ramadan, the Israeli police puts barriers along the wide stair-amphitheater leading to Damascus Gate in the Old City, and prohibits Palestinians from sitting there and festively receiving the Ramadan holy month as they have always done Young Palestinians protest at Damascus Gate and clash with the policeA Tik-Tok clip documents a Palestinian slapping a Jew on the Jerusalem light rail, and this violent event is imitated widelyIn response, a revengeful procession runs havoc in the streets of Jerusalem headed by the ‘Lehava’ [in Hebrew: flame] ultra-rightist groupThe procession is stopped near the Damascus Gate – where the police use horsemen, ‘Skunk’ trucks and stun grenades in a violent confrontation with Palestinian youthsOn May 7, the last Friday of Ramadan, large security forces enter Temple Mount;  A stun grenade is hurled into a mosque. Many Palestinians are wounded and detained,


  Nothing resembles the Ramadan Fridays of years past. This time it is different and not due to the Covid-19 pandemic. First sights can be confusing, as if no one is trying to get to Al Aqsa Mosque to pray. A view over the pedestrian bridge only reinforces this impression of strange emptiness. Against the background of all that has taken place there, both at the inspection posts and in Palestinian encounters with armed men and weapons, echoes the Lehava, the flame, ignited and burnt in Jerusalem last night. 
Qalandiya Checkpoint, April 23, 2021, Tamar F.

   The plaza in front of Damascus Gate is a maze of tangled blocking fences. At every corner on people’s way to prayer stand groups of armed security forces, inspecting the goings-on. The atmosphere is tense and less festive than it used to be. Only 10,000 permits have been allotted to West Bank residents, who must of course be vaccinated. But Israel provides vaccinations only to workers that it needs. So, there are hardly any families, women or children in festive clothes. Sad. 
Old City of Jerusalem, April 23, 2021, Anat T, Natanya G

   I arrived at the checkpoint at 6:30 a.m., thinking that on the last Ramadan Friday, I would see much more traffic than I did 2 weeks ago, as people make an early start in order to reserve a good spot at the Al Aqsa Mosque. What naivete! The entire area in front of the checkpoint entrance is ‘hermetically’ fenced. There is practically no one in the tracks leading to the buses. 
Until 10am, when I finally left, 1,487 persons had crossed the checkpoint – that’s it… 
Two years ago we counted 30,000 here at this hour. During my entire vigil, only 5 women had passed. I have been standing at checkpoints during Ramadan for 20 years now. There were years when the situation ‘improved’ – but freedom of worship has never existed. And here I stand now, and the situation only gets worse. Desperate, I sat down on a rock, leaned forward and hid my head between my knees…
Bethlehem Checkpoint, May 7, 2021, Hannah B

   Nasser from Tawane Village tells us about last Saturday’s havoc: Noontime, Saturday, Ramadan fast. The flock was grazing near the water hole at Humra. Suddenly two settlers arrived and got into the water to bathe. A Palestinian shepherd approached them and told them that the water is used only for drinking. The two got out but soon, numerous settlers swarmed from the Havat Maon outpost, with vehicles and weapons. They shouted: “Get out of here! This is our land.” They beat up and threw stones at Palestinians and their Taayush (Israeli-Palestinian partnership) supporters. The clash grew worse as an army jeep arrived and the soldiers threw teargas grenades. Women and children passed out. In the meantime, a bus arrived, bearing 50 more settlers. The police arrived an hour and a half later and refused to fill out a complaint. Only upon the arrival of DCO officials who promised to take care of the matter did the clash subside…
... We came to A-Tawane because of the sirens and missiles flying in from the south.  We heard from the Palestinians how every week the impunity and brutality of settlers from Havat Maon increase in their attempts to take over the village’s water holes and lands. There is an increase in the number of assaults, in the violence and frequency of their attacks. 
South Hebron Hills, April 27& May 11, 2021, Michal T


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 A picture drawn during the was by Shaimah Basharat from the Jordan Valley
 Photo: Rachel Afek

Palestinian struggle for survival persists in the West Bank

May 10, 2021, ‘Jerusalem Day’ – violent clashes and police invasion of Temple Mount (Muslim holy shrines)The Flag March of Jerusalem Day led by the ultra-right is diverted only at the last possible moment from its original route through the Muslim QuarterHamas’ ultimatum to Israel – if all policemen are not removed from the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood by 6pm, Hamas will attack IsraelHamas launches a missile towards JerusalemOperation ‘Guardian of the Walls’ is launched – There is unceasing bombings of Gaza and volleys of missiles sent by the Hamas to the south and center parts of Israel Bloody clashes between Jews and Arabs in Israel for over a week, mainly in the ‘mixed cities’Right wing extremists and settlers arrive by the bus load and run havoc in these cities
Unchecked protest demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, include live fire by Palestinians and Israeli soldiers 

 I left home feeling heavy-hearted. Jerusalem is burning. There’s the smell of war in the air… my partner begs me to be careful, and I insist on going. It is so important for Palestinian children to see  Israelis that are not settlers or soldiers. Who knows what prevents terrorism? Certainly not military occupation…
...Harsh clashes with the Israeli army in the Old City of Hebron, teargas grenades, many wounded and arrests earlier in the week. Because of the pandemic, we no longer meet the international volunteers who walk around the streets of Hebron to do their bit in protecting Palestinians, for whom the city has turned into an open-air prison. To our great surprise, we did see some volunteers. We stopped to have a chat, and it appeared these were young Palestinians from Hebron, who took it upon themselves to monitor for pay. We exchanged phone numbers and said we’d keep in touch. 
Hebron, May 10-11, 2021Hagit B, Michal T.

  We drove along road 60 throughout the South Hebron Hills region. At every junction we saw remains of yesterday’s demonstrations. At Beit Anoun Junction passersby tell us there was massive firing of rubber-coated ammunition and teargas grenades. About 20 people were arrested and many wounded. 'When will things be good'? they ask us. 'Haniya and Netanyahu are good buddies', I quote, 'they have no problem continuing the fight'.
South Hebron Hills, May 19, 2021, Hagit B

  Some things are sacred and they are not necessarily called Jerusalem. I drive to the Jordan Valley without defined plan. Thus, I ran into shepherds who tell me about the routine of their life. Because of the great summer heat in this region, they go out with their cows to graze around 3pm and remain with them until 8am the next morning. They take a blanket along and take turns sleeping. Alongside them live foxes, wolves and hyenas, as well as gazelles. I didn’t get the numbers. But these animals are good hunters.
The fox devours the chickens – out of 90 chickens in the pen only 9 were left… The hyena attacks calves as well as cows by biting them in the belly. It makes do with one a day. The shepherds know of one 30-year-old hyena who lives near road 90 in what they call Hyena Wadi. The wolf likes calves and sheep too, if they can be had. It is able to devour several a day.
Then comes the snake. Yesterday, as the shepherd woke up, he saw a snake sleeping with him under his blanket, ‘the Beast of Palestine’, a red poisonous snake, about 40 cm. long. He escaped in fear. We met and spoke on the 2nd day of the war, a time when many were being killed and homes destroyed. The young shepherds sigh and ask: 'Why?  Who needs this? Why not live in peace'?
Jordan Valley, May 13, 2021, Rachel A



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 May 21, 2021, Ceasefire: 4390 missiles fired at Israel, mostly to the South, destroyed homes, 13 casualties, including 2 children Gaza – 232 dead, including 67 children; dwellings and high rise buildings torn down, tremendous damage to infrastructure27 killed, including 4 children, in clashes in Jerusalem and in the West Bank (5 terrorists) Of the 950 detaineesinfo-icon in Jewish-Arab clashes inside Israel, 120 were indicted – except for 7 - all of them Arabs Even after the clashes subsided, the police arrested 300 in an operation 'Law and Order', 250 of them were Arabs. 60 were brought before a judge, the rest were released. Arrests of political activists continue.


   I open the newspaper in the morning and 67 dead children greet me ... On the same page, there is a news item about political activists in East Jerusalem who lost their national insurance rights.  I read the article and can not believe my eyes. Rami Pahuri's pregnant wife will not be able to get the results of her medical tests because her husband is politically active? Is she deprived of the right to national health care?... In this context, it is worth reminding all of us that the annexation of Jerusalem obliges us under any international treaty to provide all Israeli residents with medical services, welfare services, religion facilities and the like. This is not a right we give out of kindness - it is a duty! This is required when annexing people and land.

Letter to the editor of Haaretz by Hanna Barag, 27.5.21

 'Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies' is a slogan that has been heard a lot lately, but has been under the media radar for years. 
The "Sea Days" project of MachsomWatch, which began about 14 years ago, aims at bringing Palestinian children and mothers to the sea, most of them for the first time in their lives. It can be done. You just have to choose to do it.

             photo and facebook post: Orna Naor


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