A Catholic monastery and convent in the secluded Cremisan Valley outside Bethlehem lost a seven-year legal battle against the construction of Israel's "separation barrier" across its land on April 24. The wall will surround the convent and primary school on three sides, confiscating most of its land. A small gate will be built to allow nuns and monks to access the Salesian Monastery and Convent in order to "guarantee their right of freedom of religion." The gate will also allow farmers and landowners to access their lands on the other side of the wall, although they will need permits to reach them.
Long term hunger striker Samer Issawi ended his protest action on April 23 after signing an agreement with Israel which guarantees his release, his lawyer Jawad Bolous said. The deal will see Issawi released to his hometown of Jerusalem after serving eight months in jail, after 266 days of refusing food in protest against his rearrest by Israeli forces. The agreement was signed at Kaplan Medical Center in Israel where Issawi is currently being held, and both his uncle and brother were present at the signing, Bolous said.
Long-term hunger striker Samer Issawi on April 17 called for "rage and solidarity" to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day. "Greetings to all without exception. I urge all the noble people of our Arab and Muslim nation as well as the free people of the world to turn April 17 into a day of rage and solidarity with Palestinian prisoners," Issawi wrote in a letter sent through his lawyer from his hospital bed. "The voice of those heroes who have sacrificed and are still making sacrifices for the sake of the freedom of their people and land, and in defense for Muslim and Christian holy places in the holiest spot on the globe, should be heard."
For a fourth consecutive day April 5, young Palestinians in Hebron clashed with Israeli troops in protests over the death of an elderly prisoner in Israeli custody. The fiercest clashes took place in Bab al-Zawiya neighborhood in the center of Hebron April 4 after the funeral procession. Young protesters hurled stones, empty bottles and fire-bombs at Israeli troops who in turn used rubber-coated bullets and tear gas canisters. At least 20 protesters were injured. Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, 63, died April 2 at Israel's Soroka Hospital. Although he was diagnosed with cancer in January, it apparently went untreated; according to his lawyer, Rami Alami, he was only given painkillers and antibiotics. Palestinian officials charge that Israeli authorities refused to treat his cancer, ultimately causing his death. (Ma'an News Agency, April 5; Ma'an News Agency, Daily Beast, April 4)
Such a perverse historical irony. Israel's draconian restrictions on freedom of movement in the occupied West Bank provide the circumstances for religious ritual and political protest to converge seamlessly, as Palestinian Christians' attempt at a Good Friday procession in Jerusalem is perforce converted into a demonstration for rights and dignity. The Romans provided the template for a universal metaphor of oppression in Palestine 2,000 years ago. The new Romans became, over time, Byzantine Greeks, Seljuk Turks, Christian Crusaders, Mamluk mercenaries, Ottoman Turks, British colonialists—and now Jews. Can this possibly be good for the Jews? From Al-Monitor, March 29:
Israeli forces surrounded but did not ultimately attack the Ahfad Younis protest camp estabished by Palestinian activists outside Jerusalem during Obama's visit to Israel and the West Bank. But as Obama moved on to Jordan March 23, two Palestinian youths were critically wounded as Israeli forces fired rubber-coated steel bullets on protester at Anata north of Jerusalem. Several people suffered from tear-gas inhalation. Five people were also injured in the Ramallah area village of Beit Liqya during a protest against Israel's separation wall. (Maan News Agency, Al-Monitor, March 22)
Israeli forces on March 20 surrounded a new tent village erected by Palestinian activists in Eizariya east of Jerusalem. An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians established "an illegal settlement" and that security forces were in the area "to maintain order." She said soldiers arrested the driver of a truck loaded with equipment including tents. Mohammad Khatib, a spokesman for the activists, said soldiers handed protesters a document declaring the area a closed military zone. "We are staying. We are Palestinians, and we will stay here. They will have to evacuate us. They will have to use their power to do it, but we will not do it by ourselves," Khatib told Ma'an News Agency. "We are staying here because this is Palestinian land. This is our land, and no one has a right to evacuate us."
Israel may have to soon forfeit its long-touted claim to being the Middle East's only democracy. The new coalition government agreed to March 15 between Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu and Habayit Hayehudi is calling for a rewrite of Israel's Basic Law that would officially make the state's democratic character subservient to its Jewish character. Earlier versions of the bill, pushed by Kadima MK Avi Dichter, contained controversial measures that sparked an outcry, leading to it being shelved. These included a mandate for the state to invest resources to promote Jewish settlement with no similar obligation to do so for other ethnic groups. Another stated that Arabic would no longer be considered an official language, but rather would merely have a "special status." (Haaretz, March 17)