Sunday October 18
Our last day with the group was spent in Tel Aviv. We took a bus type taxi to Tel Aviv which normally takes about 45 minutes from Jerusalem but 2 ½ hours later after being stuck in road construction and a taxi with no air conditioning in temps of 95 degrees and high humidity we arrived at our hostel. We dropped our bags at the hostel then went for a presentation by Yesh Din, an Israeli group of attorneys and volunteers who work within the Israeli laws for prosecution of Israeli’s who violate Palestinians human rights. Yesh Din is Hebrew for “there is law”. They monitor the check points and other human rights. They are a relatively new organization but doing a great service for the Palestinian people. They are having some real successes and letting Israelis know that are going to be held accountable for their actions. Up until recently the settlers and soldiers thought they could do whatever they wanted and would not be investigated. The government provides the settlers with guns for “protection”. The action of the settlers is organized to provoke the villagers to violence then the settlers will have cause for their actions but the Palestinians are reacting in nonviolence and within the law. Yesh Din works throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They first started with the settler violations, then moved to the military, boarder police and now soldier violence. Palestinians have limited access to justice. The police stations are usually located inside the settlements so it is very difficult for them to file a complaint. Yesh Din does not make the decision to file a complaint, they just facilitate the action. Many times the Palestinians are afraid to file a suit because they do not trust the Israelis. They will accompany them to the police station and assist in filing a charge. Many times the Palestinians, when going on their own, will be intimidated, the report gets “lost” or an investigation is not completed. Yesh Din follows a claim through to the end and to as high a court as is necessary. They work with land confiscation by the settlers and government. The OFRA settlement is the capital settlement with most of the settlement leaders living there. The land was owned with documentation by a Palestinian family but the settlers and military came in, cleared the land and built 9 homes to start. According to Israel, the land all belongs to them. Israel knows the settlements are illegal but they continue to issue home demolition orders to provide land for settlement expansion. Enforcement of Israel Law would halt the settlement expansions and destroy many existing settlements, so they drag out the cases in hopes the land owners will give up and leave. According to the Israeli law, if a land owner has documentation of ownership they are not permitted to take the land, but the government does not adhere to its own laws. Yesh Din said, “If Israel followed its own laws there would be no occupation.” Settler harassment has decreased some due to the law suits filed by Yesh Din.
Basic human rights and private land ownership that we experience in Western Nations does not exist for the Palestinian. Israel uses the banner of terrorism to deceive the world. They feel if they disrupt the normal life of villages this will control terrorism. Intimidation of the Palestinian citizen is terrorism!
The reaction to the Goldstone report shows that pressure is working. The Israeli reaction shows they know their actions can not continue as they are.
After this we walked quickly 13 blocks in the heat & humidity to our next meeting which we found out was postponed until later that evening. We went out to the beach 1 block from our hostel & had ice cream. It was so refreshing and quieted the abdominal sounds since we did not have any lunch.
That evening over dinner we listened to Ruth from New Profile. This group supports Israeli youth who do not want to enter the army after high school graduation due to their convictions that what their government is doing is very wrong. Three years service is required for males and two years for females. Many young people are even serving their years in prison rather than serving the army under the occupation. New Profile helps young men and women get deferments for legitimate reasons or get approval for alternative services. They even work with career service men who have also decided they can not continue to serve their country with the occupation. They are doing a remarkable service for the Israeli youth.