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Special Reports Last Updated: Jun 17th, 2008 - 00:54:16

The Israeli government is "immoral, unethical and illegal"
By Eileen Fleming
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 17, 2008, 00:20

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On June 5, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, from Northern Ireland, Maried Corrigan-Maguire, a keynote speaker at the third annual Bil'in conference on nonviolence traveled to Hebron. Maried had been invited by friends who volunteer with Christian Peacemaker Team's based there.

Maried wrote:

On arrival in Hebron we met with the administrator of the Hebron Orphanages. He explained that the Israeli army is threatening to close 14 schools and orphanages in the Hebron district.

Eight of these schools and orphanages belong to the Islamic Charitable Society, while the remaining six belong to the Muslim Youth Society. (On 26 February, the Israeli army forces handed over military orders of closures and confiscations of two bakeries, administrative buildings, a warehouse, three schools and two orphanages. All of these owned by the ICS.)

He took us to see a newly built school owned by ICS (cost of one million), which was due to be opened in August, but is now closed. The Israeli military has welded the gates of the school closed and the reason given, as for all these closures are, 'security.' Beside the school we visited a large warehouse and met the caretaker. He explained that in March the Israeli ,ilitary arrived at 3 a.m., and left at 9 a.m., they tied him up and proceeded to pack and removed all the food and clothing in the warehouse and destroyed the interior of the buildings, smashing everything in sight. The contents of the warehouse were for the orphans and the poor and the premises run by Islamic Charitable Society. We then visited a burnt out bakery (there was another destroyed bakery, but time did not permit a visit). Again the Israeli military destroyed the entire interior, burning completely the huge baking oven. This bakery cooked over 3,000 loaves of bread, and was subsidized by charity, to feed the orphans and poor.

The jobs created by these Islamic Charitable projects, are gone and in the short time not able to be replaced. We also visited a boys' and girls' orphanage both under military orders of closure. The ICS will challenge these closures in court, but, in the meantime, the Israeli military are systematically during the night, raiding and destroying the buildings. The fear now is that the orphanages and school will be raided and destroyed.

In an attempt to stop this, Islamic Charitable Society have invited people, including internationals, to sleep overnight in these buildings in the hope that the presence of internationals might deter the Israeli military's nightly raids of destruction.

I join four friends in sleeping overnight in the girls' orphanage, and we were alone in this building, as the children have gone to friends for the summer school period. Luckily the army did not arrive, but what will happen when there are no internationals to sleep over?

And the world sleeps while this destruction takes place. Before our sleepover, we met local Muslims and were hosted to a beautiful meal and great kindness and gratitude for our presence.

The outside world, for the most part, is unaware of this Israeli government's policy of demonization, willful destruction, of the Muslim Institutions, one by one, in an attempt to destroy the spirit and resilience of the Muslim communities, not only in Hebron but throughout the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

It was for me horrific to witness, the Israeli government (and the USA/UK governments' war on terrorism), come to be played out on the streets of Hebron, against orphan children.

(If the schools and orphanages continue to be closed down, and the military continue to destroy completely these institutions, then 7,000 children will be without school and 4,500 children will be without homes.)

The excuse given is that these Islamic institutions are a front for 'Hamas,' but the Islamic Charitable Society was established in 1962, and all their financial dealings and accounting are completely open.

The money for the school and orphanages comes from local investments (they have their own businesses), from donors abroad and from Arab and Western countries (Prince Charles, through a UK trust has donated towards these orphanages).

I was shocked and horrified to see the destruction of these Islamic institutions. The threats of the Israeli Army (and government) against orphans must be loudly resisted by all of us concerned for a violent free and peaceful world for Muslim children, indeed all our children.

This behavior is immoral, unethical and illegal and the Israeli government should be held accountable by the international community for its abuse of the rights of the children to safety and education.

As occupiers of this country, they have legal obligations to protect the occupied, especially women and children.

The United Kingdom has many questions to answer here, too. Tony Blair is based in East Jerusalem, (a few hours from Hebron, so he is well aware of this systematic willful destruction of Islamic charitable institutions) and his brief is to help Palestinian economic reconstruction. How ironic whilst he is supposed to be helping businesses, etc., the Israeli military are in the dead of night spreading terror and destruction of the Islamic communities. What is Mr. Blair and the UK governments doing about this?

One of the things that struck me during my visit to the illegally occupied territories was the courage, friendliness and resilience of the Palestinian people. But I was also conscious of the fact that so many of them are traumatized by what is happening, and in bewilderment that the outside world is silent and inactive in face of their tremendous suffering, and blatant dispossession and persecution.

The world must act against this ongoing destruction by Israel of the Palestinian people and their institutions, and by Israeli racist and apartheid policies, in the villages and cities of occupied Palestine, including the siege of Gaza.

All occupations come to an end, as this one surely will, but if this occupation continues, it will begin to destroy the very soul of the Jewish people, and leave a legacy of anger and resentment within some the Arab people, especially the young, which will take generations to heal.

It behooves the Israeli (and international community) to awaken now to the urgency of justice for the Palestinians, by ending the Siege of Gaza, the Occupation of Palestine, and moving to build justice and reconciliation whilst there is still time to turn this around, and before more blood of Israeli/Palestinians brothers and sisters is shed.

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
Hebron, in the Palestinian occupied territories.
5 June 2008.

In June 2005, I made my first and last trip to Hebron, the most painful place I have ever been.

My guide was Jerry Levin, who in the 1980s had been CNN's Middle East bureau chief in Lebanon. Jerry, a secular Jew, was kidnapped and held hostage by Hezbollah for nearly a year. Shortly after he experienced a mystical Christmas Eve, and escaped unharmed; he was never the same. He became a Christian and he and his wife, Dr. Sis, have devoted themselves ever since to seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land.

In 2005, Jerry was a full-time volunteer with CPT/Christian Peacemaker Teams in Hebron when he told me, "Every time I get ready to return to Palestine, everyone asks me, 'Aren't you afraid?' I reply, 'Of what, the Palestinians? No way! But when it comes to the Israelis soldiers, you bet I am!'"

In 2005, Hebron contained 450 Israeli settlers/squatters/colonists and 3,000 Israeli forces. The 18- to 21-year-olds patrolled the streets with their weapons at the ready and turned us away at one of the many checkpoints. Jerry quipped, "Most of the soldiers don't like the CPTs. Whenever they won't let us through, we just go another way, and always, eventually, get where we want to go."

I was nauseated the entire day for the oppression was visceral. The narrow, winding stone streets that for centuries had been trod by Palestinians were eerily empty in many areas, except for the open air market street and another where apartment buildings were on one side Israeli, and the other Palestinian. The only connection to the other side of the street was a thick, deeply sagging netting strung overhead. Huge rocks, shovels, electronic equipment, furniture, and all manner of debris had been flung upon it and I wondered if I would be underneath when it gave way.

Jerry told me, "It gets cleaned out about every year or so. Come back in a few months, and this netting will be much closer to your head. The settlers just throw whatever they want onto the netting; they do whatever they want and get away with it. The CPTs run interference by nonviolent resistance; we get the children and woman to where they need to be going and back again. Sometimes, the settlers curse and stone us all; it keeps it interesting."

We then walked to a desolate area and Jerry pointed out all the empty and formerly Palestinian homes that the settlers had painted graffiti and Stars of David on. It was not a nightmare, but reality when I saw spray painted on a now empty, but formerly Palestinian home, "GAS THE ARABS."

I told Jerry Hebron was hell on earth and he replied, "You haven't seen anything, until you see Gaza."

And that was in 2005.

Eileen Fleming, reporter and editor of WAWA, is the author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory," and producer of "30 Minutes With Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu."

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