A Year of the Palestinian Uprising

Against the Current No. 17, November/December 1988

Edward C. Corrigan

THE WORD “intifada” means “shaking off” in Arabic and expresses the determination of the over 1.5million Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza, to end the Israeli occupation. The Arabs in the Occupied Territories have lived for the past twenty-one years under military rule.

On December 8, 1987, an Israeli tank transporter drove into a line of cars of Arab workers who had just passed through a military check point at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Four Palestinians were crushed to death and seven more were seriously injured.

The incident was witnessed by hundreds of Palestinian day laborers returning from Israel. This wanton act sparked the explosion that many observers had long predicted.

One of the more widely publicized incidents associated with the year’s unrest was the Israeli deportation of Mubarak Awad. Awad is a Christian Palestinian with American citizenship, and a follower of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Even though Awad was born in Jerusalem he was deported as a “foreign national.” His “crime” was advocating a campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience to win political rights for Palestinians. The deportation of Awad even provoked a letter from thirty-six members of the United States Congress who asked Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to reconsider the deportation order.

Institutions Banned

Palestinian political and social infrastructures have long been a target for attack for the Israeli authorities. Since the start of the intifada all Palestinian universities have been closed and twenty-seven unions have been shut down.

The Palestinian Press Service has been banned for six months and over twenty Palestinian journalists have been detained. One of the latest victims in this campaign is the Arab Research Society, which was closed down and its director, Faisal Husseini, arrested.

On June 20, 1988, In’ash el-Usra Society for Protection of the Family) in al-Bireh was ordered closed for two years and became the first Palestinian charitable organization shut down by the Israelis. This society also has the distinction of being the first women’s organization to be closed by the Israeli military.

In’ash el-Usra ran an orphanage for 132 Palestinian girls, a pre-school for over 200 children and a foster parent plan. The society also operated vocational training and employment programs. It had 152 full-time employees and 4,800Palestinian women earned desperately needed income in its embroidery employment program.

The income generating parts of the organization funded the charitable and social programs. It was the largest Palestinian family and children’s society in the West Bank. Over15,000 people are affected by this single closure.

The Israeli army charged that ln’ash el-Usra was “brainwashing” children with anti-Jewish propaganda and that it was “a major centre for teaching the slogans and goals of the intifada.” The army claimed that it found examples of “classic anti-Semitic indoctrination” at the society.

The materials allegedly seized included still pictures showing a “Jewish teacher assaulting a young Palestinian girl because she insists that Palestine is Arab.” Also reportedly found was a scrapbook with photos showing a child in military uniform pointing a gun at an Israeli teacher.

When the Israeli army searched the compound there were no independent observers or responsible Palestinians present. So it is impossible to verify if the material in question in fact came from ln’ash el-Usra. Other items seized from the society included Palestinian cultural and folkloric video tapes as well as administrative and financial records.

Samiha Khalil, the founder of the In’ash el-Usra, has emphatically denied the allegations of “anti-Semitic indoctrination.” At a hastily called press conference she stated: “We refuse to teach our children any kind of hatred… on the contrary we extend a hand of friendship to Jews.”

The absurdity of the charge of “indoctrination” is confirmed by the fact that the society’s school and orphanage were the only parts of the operation allowed to remain open. The productive and relief elements were shut down. As one commentator noted, the closure of ln’ash el-Usra “constitutes both a form of collective punishment and a form of economic warfare against Palestinians.”

The Israelis have also banned many other Palestinian social and youth organizations. One such target has been the Palestinian popular committees that coordinated relief and social programs within the Palestinian community. It is now illegal to participate in these bodies. The communities served an important role in mitigating the effect of Israel’s social and economic repression of the Palestinians, which is designed to crush resistance to Zionist control over the Occupied Territories.

Repression Spreads to Israel

Palestinians who are perceived as leaders, or even as having leadership capabilities, are also viewed as a dangerous threat. One example of Israeli policy in this regard is the refusal of the occupation authorities to grant Dr. Eyad Al-Serraj, the Arab director of mental services in the Gaza Strip, permission to visit his family in Great Britain unless he quit his post. He was the only fully qualified psychiatrist and neurologist in Gaza and was greatly respected within the Palestinian community.

The Israelis were unable to make any claim against him on security grounds so they resorted to this tactic to get rid of him. The Israelis, in effect, are endeavoring to destroy the ability of the Palestinians to organize in any form because any Palestinian organizational capability is seen as a political threat.

Ominously this denial of democratic rights has also been extended to Israeli society with attacks on Jews who have opposed the violation of Palestinian human rights. This campaign has included the shutting down of the Jerusalem-based Alternative Information Centre, which provided information for the media on the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, and the arrest of its director Michael Warshawsky.

On February 18, 1988, Derech Hanitzotz/Tariq a-Sharara, joint Hebrew/Arabic newspaper was closed and over a short period of time five of its editors and journalists were arrested. One of the Derech Hanitzotz editors, Hadas Lahav, has since been released. Yacov Ben-Efrat, Roni Ben-Efrat, Michael Schwartz and Asaf Adiv are still being held in detention and have been subjected to physical and psychological torture.

Hadas Lahav reported that during her interrogation by the Shabaq (Security Services) an Arab prisoner was brought to her looking like a vegetable. Lahav was told that if she did not confess to “security offenses” they would continue torturing the prisoner. The other detainees have made similar charges.

At the beginning of the intifada the mainstream North American media, for the first time, extensively documented the Israeli use of mass house arrests, the stealing and demolition of homes and other forms of collective punishment, the widespread use of torture and the violation of Palestinian legal and human rights on a massive scale.

The Israeli military was enforcing its “Iron Fist” policy with a vengeance. However, more than 600 Israeli military reservists, all members of Yesh Gvul (“There is a Limit”), have refused to serve in the Occupied Territories. Twenty-four “refusniks” have been imprisoned so far.

The Israelis, following the example of the South Africans, have severely restricted journalists’ access to the West Bank and Gaza As a result of this policy media coverage has been sharply curtailed and the plight of the Palestinians has faded from the conscience of the world. But the brutality continues unabated, and in fact it has even increased in its severity.

The July 1988 Bulletin of the Red Cross reports that 5,200 Palestinians are being held under administrative detention. There are a further 4,500 Palestinians also being held in Israeli prisons. “Ansar III” (Ketziot) internment camp alone holds 2,722 Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians call these detention centers “concentration camps.” All of these Palestinian prisoners have virtually none of the legal rights taken for granted in Western society.

By July 28, 1988, the Database Project on Palestinian Human Rights, headquartered in Chicago, had documented the killing of 320 Palestinians by the Israeli military and Jewish settlers. The type of tear gas used by the Israeli army to control protests has resulted in at least fifty-nine deaths and has also induced hundreds of miscarriages in Palestinian women. It is further estimated that over 12,000 Palestinians have been injured, in many cases permanently. (By November the death toll was over 450.)

Outrage in Beita

An explosive series of events followed the April 6 killing of Tirza Porat, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl, in the Palestinian village of Beita near Nablus in the West Bank. Porat, one of a group of children from the settlement of Elon Moreh on a hike through the Palestinian village, died when hit by a bullet fired by Rumain Aldubi, a U.S.-born settler who was an armed escort for the hiking party.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said that Tirza Porat had grabbed Aldubi’s arm to stop his shooting spree of unarmed Palestinian villagers. He had already killed Musa Daoud Bani Shamsa, age 20, and Hatem Fayez Ahmad al-Jabber, 19, and wounded two others.

Initial reports that Porat had been “stoned to death” by villagers in Beita created a frenzy of outrage. Hundreds of villagers were arrested, some thirty placed in administrative detention, and one killed by Israeli soldiers searching for “suspects.”

The Israeli army blew up thirteen houses in Beita as a form of collective punishment. Coverage of some of these demolitions was carried live on Israeli and American television. The house of one of the Palestinians who had protected the settler children was destroyed. Eight of these homes were demolished after it was discovered that it was a bullet from Aldubi’s gun that killed Porat. Felicia Langer, an Israeli civil rights lawyer noted for her defence of Palestinians, obtained an order nisi temporarily preventing further demolitions.

On April 19, 1988, six young men from Beita were also expelled from the Occupied Territories. The offense that one of the young men was deported for was taking the weapons away from the armed settlers.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, shortly after Porat’s murder, had thundered that “the blood of the whole nation is boiling ….. God will avenge her blood …. Every murderous deed unites the people of Israel and strengthens us and ties us to the land ….These rioters, these murders will achieve nothing.”

Justice Minister Avraham Sharir said, “We must destroy the houses of all those involved in any way in this awful deed and they must be expelled from Israel­ all those who were involved in any way. We owe this to our children. If we don’t, it’s a license to continue murdering.” Religious Affairs Minister Zevulun Hammer urged the military to “cut off the arms of these wild men and smash the skull of the viper of death.”

Rabbi Chaim Druckman of the National Religious Party stated that the village of Beita “should be wiped off the face of the earth.” Trade Minister Ariel Sharon also called for the destruction of the Palestinian village. Jewish settlers demanded revenge for the killing and argued for the expulsion of the Palestinian inhabitants of Beita. The settlers called for the establishment of a Jewish settlement, named after Tirza Porat, in the place of Beita.

Rumain Aldubi, the American-born Jewish settler, had previously been involved in violent incidents with Palestinians and even with the Israeli military. As a cell leader of the fanatical Gush Emunim (°Bloc of the Faithful”) settler movement in 1987, Aldubi tried several times to establish a settlement base in the casbah of the Palestinian city of Nablus. He was ordered banned from Nablus by Israeli military authorities, the first and only Jew against whom the Israeli Defense Forces have issued an administrative order that restricted his mobility.

When IDF Chief of Staff, Dan Shomron, reported that the Arabs in Beita had protected the Jewish settler children and that a Palestinian doctor and nurse treated the wounded, and Palestine Red Crescent ambulances had evacuated the injured, angry Jewish settlers called for his removal

A similar uproar occurred when the army revealed that it was a Jewish settler’s bullet that killed Tirza Porat and not a rock thrown by a Palestinian as had been initially reported.

The Israelis then charged that a rock that knocked Aldubi unconscious (ending his shooting spree) caused the shooting death of Tirza Porat. On May17,1988, it was reported in the Israeli press that Munira Daoud, a sister of a Palestinian shot dead by Aldubi’s rampage, would be charged with the murder of Porat if it was determined that the bullets were fired by Aldubi when he was hit by the rock and knocked out. When the weapons were seized from the settlers the Israeli military reported t.1-tat “their magazines were empty.”

On May 24, 1988, Munira Saleh Daoud, age 22 and three months pregnant, was arraigned on the charge of rock throwing and aggravated assault. She ultimately received an eight-month prison term. Aldubi will not be charged with the murder of the two Palestinians nor with the wounding of others, at least three seriously.

Aldubi has regained consciousness but he may have some permanent injuries. There was talk that the settlers would be charged with an offense for failure to coordinate their hike with the Israeli army. However, this idea was dropped. There was no real discussion of laying a more serious charge.

A group of Israelis later went to Beita and attempted to help repair the destruction inflicted by the Israeli military. They replanted olive trees that had been uprooted and began to rebuild the Palestinian homes that had been demolished. The Israeli army later returned and destroyed their work.

Annexation Ambitions

At the heart of this bitter conflict is the Israeli drive to integrate “Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank) into the Jewish state over the objections of their Arab inhabitants. This Zionist goal can only be accomplished by trampling on the civil and human rights of over 1.5 million Palestinians who must be forced from the land to make way for Jewish settlers.

The Palestinians will not quietly acquiesce in the destruction of their society, and violence is the Israeli answer to resistance. Israel’s aims also clash with the aspirations of the Palestinian people to have an independent state.

According to Israeli liberal Meron Benvenisti’s West Bank Data Project, Israel has seized over 52 percent of the land in the West Bank and 30 percent of the land in the densely populated Gaza Strip. The confiscation of Palestinian land is clearly a violation of international law, including the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention and the United Nations Security Council resolution 242, which covers “the in admissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Israel is a signatory to both documents.

Virtually no nation in the world recognizes Israel’s claims to the territories it seized in 1%7. The entire international community has also condemned the establishment of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. It is only through the massive financial support given by the United States to Israel that settlements in the Occupation are sustained.

Israel must stop confiscating Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories and withdraw all the illegal settlements from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel should also begin meaningful discussions with legitimate Palestinian leaders-those chosen by the Palestinians themselves, not those imposed by others-to resolve the conflict. These steps would not only be for the benefit of the Palestinians who live under terrible repressive conditions but also for the benefit of the Israelis as well.

November-December 1988, ATC 17