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[OPIRG-EVENTS] date change: Nonviolent Peaceforce meeting 16 October




note CHANGE in date:

Nonviolent Peaceforce Canada
communications and outreach working group
Thursday, 24 October, 7:00 pm
Bronson Center, 211 Bronson Ave., room 309A
(ring buzzer to get in from outside)

Background information below. With the pilot project of Nonviolent
Peaceforce due to be launched in July 2003, there is no shortage of things
to do! All are welcome and hope to see you there!

 more information: tel 722 7215 or NPC office 564 0999

--------
Background

Internationals volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement
(www.palsolidarity.org) provide protection and support to Palestinians who
 are using
 nonviolent resistance to the Occupation (read the report from an ISM
 volunteer below). In preparation for the expansion of the US-lead "war on
 terror" to Iraq, the newly formed Iraq Peace Team (www.iraqpeaceteam) is
now
 sending teams of American and Canadian volunteers to Iraq to provide an
 international presence to deter US/UK aggression. They will be sending
 reports back to North Americans and Europeans about how the "regime change"
 is hitting ordinary people.

 Drawing on the experience of these and a host of previous inspiring and
 effective initiatives, Nonviolent
 Peaceforce (www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org) is establishing an international,
 standing force of unarmed,
 civilian peaceworkers, trained in effective techniques of nonviolent
intervention. On invitation of local groups, Nonviolent Peaceforce will
 respond quickly to protect lives and the work of people struggling for
peace
 and justice.

 report from Jeff Guntzel (Voices in the Wilderness), a volunteer with the
> International Solidarity Movement (ISM is a member organisation of
> Nonviolent Peaceforce), 10 April 2002
>
> "We left for Ramallah yesterday morning. In order to enter the city, our
> little group had to avoid the Israeli checkpoint by walking (and sometimes
> running) through the brush just south of the checkpoint. Once we were
safely
> inside the military zone, a taxi driver with whom we had made advance
> arrangements drove us about a mile into Ramallah and stopped. He would not
> go any further for fear of Israeli snipers who were situated in many of
the
> city's tall buildings. A Red Crescent ambulance driver offered to take us
to
> the Sheik Zayed hospital where we had arranged to meet two organizers with
> the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Huwaida Arraf and her fiancÚ,
> Adam Shapiro. We had heard that tanks and troops surrounding the hospital
> might block our passage.
>
> Those of you who have been following the news carefully might remember the
> Sheik Zayed hospital as the site of a mass grave dug, several days
earlier,
> in the parking lot as a temporary burial ground for 29 Palestinians,
> including one American citizen. The morgue at the hospital was full, and
> there was nowhere else to put the bodies. Coming down a steep hill about
> three miles from the hospital, we spotted a tank and an armored personnel
> carrier (APC). These days, in Ramallah, the only vehicles on the streets
are
> tanks, APCs, and ambulances (I guess you could also count the mangled cars
> peppering the roadside that tanks had rolled over during the invasion).
> Suddenly a soldier appeared. He crouched on one knee, aimed his M-16
> directly at us, and fixed his eye to his gun's sight. We stopped. The
driver
> began slowly backing up the hill and several more soldiers appeared some
of
> them taking aim and some motioning us to come closer. We all held our
> passports up to let them know there were internationals in the car.
>
> Israeli troops had been harassing, arresting, and even shooting ambulance
> drivers since the start of the invasion. We had no idea what to expect.
When
> we got to the soldiers at the bottom of the hill we stopped again. Eight
> M-16s and a tank were aimed at us. The soldier directly to my right looked
> tired and scared. That scared me. Our driver was ordered out of the car
and
> asked a few questions in Arabic. Then we were ordered out, with all of our
> bags. We laid our bags out on the ground and opened them. After a
> not-so-thorough search several soldiers asked us a few questions while
> others encircled us. The soldier who at first struck me as tired and
scared
> now just looked cautiously curious.
>
> "Why are you here?" he asked, not quite meeting our eyes.
> "We came to bring medicine and food to people under curfew," said one
member
> of our group.
> "Don't you know there are terrorists here, it is dangerous," he replied,
"do
> you think you can bring peace?"
> "We don't know," we said, almost in unison.
> Then Kathy, my roommate and co-worker, stepped in, "We are here because we
> know that our government pays for much of what is going on here and we
feel
> a responsibility to intervene nonviolently in this terrible situation."
> "We did not ask for this, it is the Palestinian leadership, bad leaders,
> they are responsible for this," replied the soldier.
> "But over half of the people here are children," Kathy said, "and children
> can't be bad leaders, they can only be children!"
> "I know there are children here," he replied solemnly, looking off into
the
> distance, "but there are also terrorists. You cannot drive to the
hospital,"
> said the soldier.
> "Then we will walk," replied Greg, another member of our group, who then
> began walking towards the tank and APC that partially blocked our path.
> "Stop! You cannot walk either," demanded the soldier, who then paused and
> looked around. Directly in front of us was a soldier on one knee, holding
> each of us briefly in his cross-hairs, one person at a time.
> "Don't you understand that you make the terrorists happy when you come
here
> to help them?" the soldier continued.
> "We are here to help the innocent people in Ramallah who are being
> terrorized and killed every day," replied Kathy.
> "We do not kill innocent people."
> "We read Ha'aretz [an Israeli paper, printed in Hebrew and English] every
> day and we know innocent people are being killed," Kathy said.
> "Do you think I like this?" the soldier demanded, "I don't want to be
here."
> At that moment there was an enormous explosion and sustained machine gun
> fire. It was coming from directly behind us, and it was really loud. Two
> members of our group stepped away to smoke, and the others drifted back
> towards the ambulance. Kathy and I remained with the soldier.
> "Do you know what Arafat wants, he wants murder, why do you want to help a
> murderer," he asked.
> "Maybe there is another way to look at our presence here," I replied, "We
> are here operating beneath the level of the leaders who we believe do not
> want real peace. I think you and I have more in common than you have with
> Sharon, or than I have with Arafat, wouldn't you agree?"
> "Yes, I agree."
> "So let us go to the hospital," Kathy responded.
> Silence. Then the soldier spoke again, "You know, it is not just the
> Palestinians who are suffering."
> "We want a just peace for both sides," we responded, "We want an end to
> *all* of the violence."
> "It is too late," insisted the soldier, "there can be no peace now."
> "It is difficult to see a way out, but..."
> "Why don't you work on behalf of the Jews, why can't you be objective?"
> At that moment, another soldier came up to us and began speaking in
Hebrew.
> Then, suddenly, we were told we could get back into the ambulance and push
> ahead towards the hospital.
>
> The hospital is actually two buildings separated by a road. It was in that
> road, just yards from the hospital, that an elderly woman with a walker
was
> shot dead by an Israeli sniper just weeks ago. In the parking lot we saw
the
> mass grave we had all read about. It was empty; the killing was less
> frequent 11 days into the siege, giving hospital workers the window they
> needed to dispose of the bodies properly.
>
> ***
> For our second day in Ramallah, we agreed to divide our efforts. Some of
us
> could accompany ambulances making house calls while the rest would defy
the
> curfew by walking to the office of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief
> Committees (UPMRC) to assist in deliveries of food and medicine to
families.
> We had walked about one block when we spotted an Armored Personnel Carrier
> (APC) at the intersection three blocks ahead of us. On top of the APC were
a
> mounted machine gun and a soldier; another soldier, bearing an M-16,
> crouched in front of the APC. Both were aiming at us. We stopped. A
soldier
> yelled something. Adam yelled out, "I'm sorry I can't hear you." One of
the
> soldiers fired. "I hear your bullets," Adam replied, "We're going to
deliver
> food, we are all foreigners." We waited. There were shots in the distance.
> The soldiers ahead of us seemed to be engaged in some sort of operation
that
> drew them out of the APC. They were moving around. We were a distraction.
We
> began walking very slowly, then stopped, and again called out our intent
to
> deliver food. Adam asked to speak to the commander, with whom he has
spoken
> before. Then he asked for some signal that we could pass. Nothing. We
> resumed our slow march, white flag held high. We heard a dynamite
explosion
> nearby. The soldiers were blowing their way into a building. We stopped
> again and Adam continued, "Soldiers, we wish to proceed, may we approach
to
> speak to you?". After a long silence we decided to turn back and try again
> later. We worried that the soldiers would do something stupid to deal with
> their "distraction." Turning around, we walked back slowly, in the
direction
> of yesterday's snipers.
>
> While we were engaged in our sort-of-stand-off, Alexandra had ducked into
a
> refugee camp and returned with a heart medicine prescription for a
> middle-aged woman who couldn't reach the hospital to fill it because of
the
> snipers and the soldiers. The hospital was one block away. We returned to
> the hospital, got the heart medication, and decided to head back to the
> refugee camp, which was just in view of our friends with the APC. We began
> again, white flag waiving, and arrived at the entrance to the camp (really
> indistinguishable from the rest of the neighborhood) and were pleased to
see
> that the soldiers had moved on. We
> decided to again attempt making our way to the UPMRC offices. Just as we
> were getting ready to walk on, a man approached us to ask if we could get
an
> ambulance to take his feverish son to the hospital. We decided to escort
the
> boy to the hospital since it was so close.While we were regrouping in the
> parking lot, two ambulances sped into the driveway. Inside one was the
body
> of 28 year old Manel Sami Ibrahim, who was standing near her window when
an
> Israeli sniper shot her through the heart. Her husband and three children
> were in the apartment.
>
> "This," as one Palestinian relief worker said to me, "is the occupation."
>
> We started off again for the UPMRC offices. I felt a small sense of
victory
> as we passed the location of the soldiers we had confronted just an hour
> earlier. We turned left and headed up a hill. The streets of Ramallah were
> empty and ruined. Bullet casings of all varieties littered the streets.
The
> Israelis had shot up banks, internet cafes, bars, clothing stores, medical
> relief offices, civil service organizations, and homes. Tanks had
bulldozed
> power lines, dumpsters, and street signs. But the houses were full. Every
> once in awhile, somebody would lean out of an upper window to say hello or
> just look at us, wondering. A woman from Los Angeles came down for a quick
> visit. A man planting a tree in his garden showed us the bullet casings he
> had collected around his yard. It was surreal.
>
> Occasionally, an APC would rumble by us on a nearby street, but we didn't
> encounter any soldiers until the very end of our walk. It was right out of
a
> war movie. Two young men in fatigues with a lazy grip on their M-16s.
> Clearly bored out of their minds and blasting Bob Marley's "I Shot the
> Sheriff," They made us open our bags and barely even looked into them.
Soon
> we were on our way.
>
> At the UPRMC offices, workers took us on a tour of the damaged building.
Two
> family apartments were heavily hit with damage to the ceilings, walls and
> floors, which were covered with debris and broken glass. The clinic's
> reception room and examining room were similarly damaged, but had also
been
> ransacked. A ruined copy machine had crashed to the floor. All of the
> patient files had been stolen. And every window was shattered. After
seeing
> the damage, I was assigned to an ambulance and given a
> UPMRC/Red Crescent vest to identify me as a medical relief worker.
Alexandra
> and I accompanied a doctor and two UPMRC volunteers on food and medicine
> deliveries to various homes that had requested help. The trip through
> Ramallah neighborhoods was successful and without incident.
>
> Returning to the Sheik Zayed Hospital, we learned that IDF soldiers had
shot
> Arduf Mussa Khandil, a 23 year-old mentally retarded man whom we had seen
on
> the hospital grounds just hours earlier. Apparently he had wandered out
into
> a street behind the hospital. Witnesses saw 11 Israeli soldiers chasing
him.
> They speculated that the young man ran because he was scared when he saw
> armed soldiers. He was unarmed. They shot him dead.
>
> Scott, a member of our group, visited the morgue to confirm the details of
> the day's deaths. A third body was delivered to the morgue while we were
> out. It was the body of Mahmoud Farid Bawatma, who had been dead 7-15
days,
> his body only recently discovered. He was shot, but the details of his
death
> are unclear except that the bullet had entered through his buttocks and
> exited through his head. The morgue was full again and the doctors were
> talking about a second mass grave. As we were leaving the hospital to
> attempt a return to Jerusalem, two APCs rolled up the street and parked at
> the intersection nearest the hospital. It was the same army unit that had
> stopped us on our way in. Now they were telling us we couldn't leave.
After
> five minutes of talking and ten minutes of waiting while they struck war
> poses, we were allowed to leave.
>
> Now I am back in Jerusalem, working on getting to Jenin with Kathy and
> several others. They say there has been a massacre there.
>
>
>
>
>




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