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."
Hundreds of people took to the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip on Feb. 25 in the second day of protests following the death of a Palestinian prisoner who PA officials say died as a result of torture. The PA Minister of Detainee Affairs said that results from an autopsy of Arafat Jadarat's body indicate that he died after being tortured in Israeli custody, and not from a cardiac arrest, as Israel's Prison Authority had claimed. Hundreds of people marched from Birzeit University and gathered outside Ofer prison in Ramallah, where Israeli forces fired rubber bullets at the crowds, injuring 11 people. An Israeli army spokeswoman said "500 rioters hurled rocks, firebombs and burning tires at Israeli forces, who responded with riot dispersal means." Six people were hit by rubber bullets, she added.
Residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa will appeal next week to Israel's Supreme Court to halt construction of a highway that is to divide the district, community activists said at a press conference Feb. 18. Work on the six-lane artery, an extension of the north-south Begin Expressway, is sparking opposition in Beit Safafa, a quiet, middle-class Arab neighborhood that lies among Jewish areas in southern Jerusalem. Aluminum walls along the construction site are covered in graffiti against the expressway, with slogans such as "Don't run over Beit Safafa." Said Mohannad Gbara, a lawyer for residents: "The road in its current format cannot go ahead. It would be a disaster for Beit Safafa."
Violence broke out between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers on Feb. 21 during a rally in the West Bank near the town of Beitunia. At least 1,000 protesters were marching to Ofer Prison in support of four Palestinian inmates on a hunger strike. As Israeli forces obstructed the march protesters threw stones and burning tires, at which point the Israeli forces utilized rubber-coated bullets and tear gas to break up the crowd. At least 29 Palestinian protesters were injured in the incident. The recent clash is only one of many incidents in the last few days. There was a similar incident two days earlier in which Israeli soldiers used the same measures against protesters. The four inmates have been under administrative detention, which is renewable and permits detention for up to four months without charges. They have been protesting against such detention through hunger strikes. Among them are Tarek Qa'adan and Jafar Azzidine who have been on hunger strike for 78 days and Samer al-Issawi who has been on partial hunger strike for 200 days. A Jerusalem court on Feb. 19 rejected al-Issawi's request to be released on bail.
The Israeli firm SodaStream made a splash earlier this month when its ad was bounced from the Super Bowl—alas, for the wrong reason. CBS deemed that the content of its planned commercial was a direct swipe at two other Super Bowl sponsors, Coke and Pepsi, Advertising Age noted. SodaStream bills itself as environmentally correct, selling machines that carbonate water at home and obviate the need for soda bottles, under the corporate slogan "Set the Bubbles Free." We wish CBS had been more concerned with the boycott that has been called of SodaStream, a firm illegally operating on the occupied West Bank.