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Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Tel Rumeida Project

I first heard about the Tel Rumeida Project at Politics in the Zeros; a few days ago I had an opportunity to see the same program repeated in San Francisco. This report, written by one of the two people currently touring the United States to talk about their project, summarizes the situation of the Palestinians in Tel Rumeida, which, while at the extreme end, really encapsulates the situation of the entire occupied Palestinian people:
Located in the Israeli-controlled area of Hebron, Tel Rumeida is a small neighborhood living out the brutal extravagance of direct Israeli occupation. If Tel Rumeida is viewed as a microcosm of the Israeli plan for Palestine, the sometimes subtle realities of Palestinian life under occupation and the type of Palestinian state Israel desires can be more easily comprehended.

Nearly every tactic used by Israel to create its merciless occupation is employed in Tel Rumeida: displacement, imprisonment, economic strangulation, extreme militarization, arbitrary detention, land confiscation, disruption of normal Palestinian life, settler violence, soldier brutality, government complicity with illegal settler acts, and daily humiliation.
Although Hebron is a Palestinian city in the heart of the West Bank, an "agreement" (the kind of "agreement" you reach with a robber who's pointing a gun at your head) gave 20% of the city to the Israelis/Jews (in this context, the two terms are more or less interchangeable). The Jews who settled in Hebron are typical of the extreme right-wing, racist Jews who settle in "outposts" all over the West Bank, but with one exception -- they are living in "authorized" places, protected by Israeli soldiers and Israeli police. These are the kind of people who can be seen in video filmed by the Tel Rumeida project people chanting "Kill the Arabs," and who paint such delightful slogans as "Arabs to the gas chambers" on the walls of the town (as seen, for example, in the film Occupied Minds).

But these right-wing racists are backed by the full power of the Israeli state (and, not so indirectly, by the full power of the American state). In the first 3 1/2 months of living in Tel Rumeida, the activists counted 120 attacks on Palestinians by the settlers, almost all of them witnessed by soldiers, and none of them prevented by the soldiers. In 8 months they haven't witnessed a single significant intervention by Israel police to prevent stonings, beatings, or other acts of settler violence against Palestinians. When Palestinians attempt to lodge complaints, the police routinely hang up the phone when they hear Arabic spoken on the line, but even incidents documented with video footage and reported by the internationals are simply ignored. The constant harassment has already succeeded in ethnically cleansing 90% of the neighborhood; only 10% of the Palestinians originally living there have had the courage to remain in the face of the onslaught.

One of the dramatic aspects of this situation is that, because of Israeli law, children under the age of 12 are not subject to penalties, nor are their parents, so the acts of stoning Palestinians are routinely carried out by children as young as 6. Video footage of such incidents is available on the website (a full, edited documentary is in preparation). Watching such footage, you should remember that a Palestinian child carrying out a similar activity, and not even stoning people but just stoning an armored personnel carrier in a completely symbolic act, is likely to be shot and killed by the same Israeli soldiers who watch indifferently while Israeli children stone Palestinians. In the current Intifada, approximately 800 Palestinian children have been killed. Of those, 68% were shot in the head or upper chest, indicating rather conclusively that they were not "caught in the crossfire" but were deliberately assassinated by Israeli soldiers.

The people involved in the Tel Rumeida project are few in number, and incredibly brave, as they attempt to put themselves between the Palestinians of Tel Rumeida and the Israeli settlers, simultaneously documenting and attempting to prevent the atrocities which occur on a daily basis. I've added a new "Donate" link in the right-hand column; a small donation will go a long way to helping this small band of heroes. And if you have the opportunity to either hear them present a program in your area, or to arrange a presentation, I strongly recommend you do so. In the meantime you can visit their website to read their reports and see their photos and videos.

When you read Western corporate media, you frequently read about how Arabs want to "drive the Jews into the sea." When you see the Israeli Jews who live in Tel Rumedia, you'll realize that in reality, the shoe is very much on the other foot. They are the ones who are quite openly, and unapologetically, trying to drive the Palestinians, if not "into the sea," then at least completely out of their historic home. And, as an ironic sidenote, a significant fraction of these people claiming Hebron, and the rest of the West Bank, as their "home," are in fact recent arrivals from places like Brooklyn.

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