Peace Movement Aotearoa   |   Reports from Hebron

"The hand of the Occupation lies heavy"

14 August 2006

With all our Palestinan friends, we have been watching aghast at the unfolding war in Lebanon, and hope today's ceasefire leads to some kind of real peace there - though this seems very unlikely.

I'm sorry I'm not finding the time to write regularly - the piece For immediate release below is an example of the kind of thing we are doing. On this occasion, I was the one staying back at the office, making a lot of phone calls. It's the second home invasion by soldiers that we've seen recently. Ten days ago, we saw from our balcony that soldiers were entering our neighbour's house. Several of us (including me) went round at once and spent an hour and a half there, but when they realised that some of us were planning to spend the night - at the family's invitation - the soldiers left, without having called the police to detain us, although they said they were going to do so.

Soldiers in our neighbour’s house
Soldiers in our neighbour’s house, with Rich (CPT) talking to them

Yesterday, Dianne and I went to dinner with a family with an attractive and comfortable house on the outskirts of Hebron. Sawsan runs the Women's Centre round the corner here in the old City, which has programmes for training small groups of women, eg in using industrial sewing machines, as well as some children's holiday and after school programmes.

Sewing class at the Women’s Centre
Sewing class at the Women’s Centre

Dianne with children
Dianne with children making plasticine pictures at the Women’s Centre

Her husband is a GP in the (state-run) Health Clinic in the Old City - where it is nearly 6 months since anyone has been paid. At last there is a prospect of one month's pay going direct into health workers' accounts from European Union funds. Sawsan's co-worker, with her husband, was also there, and the two International Red Cross workers in the Old City, who we often see around, especially when the cartons of food from the Red Cross are being distributed.

Red Cross food cartons ready for distribution
Red Cross food cartons ready for distribution in the Old City

The Red Cross are now supporting employment training programmes to try to help prevent long term dependence on food aid. Sawson's two daughters, a son and two small grandchildren made up the party.

Even in this well-off family, the hand of the Occupation lies heavy - the daughter's husband has never seen his one year old daughter, who took her very first independent steps across the room while we were there. He has been in 'administrative detention' (ie with no charge or trial) in an Israeli jail for a year now, and she has been able to see him only once. One of the nearly 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners.

12 August 2006

For immediate release

Hebron-CPTers Dianne Roe and John Lynes were released about 11:30 last night after five hours of questioning at the Kiryat Arba police station. Israeli authorities confiscated the CPT video camera and tapes, promising they would return them unchanged Sunday or Monday.

Roe gave the following account of the events leading up to the arrest:

"At about 4 in the afternoon of Friday, August 11, as I was walking in the Old City, children alerted me that soldiers had entered a neighborhood home. I called fellow team member Tracy Hughes for backup and then entered the home. I met soldiers descending from the top floor as I approached the family. The father, Fayez Rajabi, welcomed me into their apartment where I videotaped Fayez' wife and young children scared and crying. The soldiers had completed a house search and then ordered the family into one room to stay for one hour. When soldiers reentered the room, I turned the camera toward them. They asked me to leave, saying they were conducting a military operation. I asked to see the order. The soldier said he didn't need one. He asked me not to videotape. I reiterated my right to film, but agreed to turn off the camera, telling him that I would turn it on again and film him if he was doing anything that would hurt family members. He called the police. John Lynes, whom soldiers had initially denied entry, was eventually allowed in, while I was waiting for the police. Tracy Hughes arrived and agreed to stay with the family so John could accompany me to the nearby Ibrahimi police station."

"At the station I showed the video footage to the head officer to his apparent satisfaction until he received a phone call. After the phone call he said, "Give me the camera," and he tried to take it from me with force. When I did not surrender the camera, the police transferred us to Kiryat Arba police station. The investigator and the soldier making the complaint viewed the video footage.

"The investigator read me the soldier's complaint, which stated that I had refused to leave when they asked me to. The investigator told me that I must leave if a soldier asks me to. I asked him if that was a new regulation. His response, although vague, seemed to indicate that each soldier is now the law. He told me I must surrender the tape or he would have to take it by force. I told him I could call my teammates to make a duplicate tape in his presence, and then I would give him the original. He said the head officer had refused that request. My teammate John then offered to hold the camera so that when the police took it forcibly he would take the brunt in place of me.

"The investigator was very reluctant to take the camera forcibly, as were the two assistants he asked to help, but in the end three of them gently removed the camera from John's neck, and apologized as they accompanied us to the gate. We thanked the investigator for his concern and fairness."

It is not certain where the investigation stands. The investigator indicated to Roe that the head officer may want to question her further before returning the tapes and camera.

Update on CPTers detained on Friday, 15 August 2006

Reports from Hebron   |   Peace Movement Aotearoa