Kids are gathered round a burned out car in Manger Square. There is no school today, their town under curfew. A Palestinian ambulance is stopped and searched in the rain. It’s another day under Israeli military occupation.
For weeks Israeli soldiers have been invading and reinvading the Bethlehem area, holding the residents captive in their homes. In the past two nights Israeli soldiers abucted 20 Palestinians from the Bethlehem area, adding them to the approximatly 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners being held,largely without charge, in Israeli jails.
A man who lives in a refugee camp called a UNRWA ambulance for his sick child last night. The UNRWA informed him, “We are under orders to not move.” This is the United Nations, too afraid of the Israeli military to use its own ambulance service. The UNRWA is also talking about the one million Palestinians who will starve to death in the West Bank when the US officially declares war on Iraq.
Last night in Bethlehem’s Manger Square, Israeli soldiers blew up a Palestinian car. An Israeli soldier stood watching with gun pointing. Another car, with two Palestinians inside, drove by and shot the invading soldier. One young man was trying to take a walk, he said, “Just one day I want to be normal, to relax.” Israeli soldiers sped through the streets yelling, “You are under curfew. Go inside your houses. All the people of Bethlehem do not go from your houses.” And after, the Israeli soldiers shrieked, “allah akbar.” The young man who wanted just to take a walk, sit in a cafe, had to race home, not half a chance for a life.
Palestinian journalists called me last night, asking if we could all go together to get the story of the 50 jeeps and dozens of tanks. Their press credentials and bullet proof vests don’t protect them from invading Israeli soldiers the way a foreign passport sometimes does. In the end, no one went out. Journalists could not do their jobs. When light came and some of us were able to go out we were stopped by Israelis, told to turn our cameras off, told that this, the home of Palestians, is a closed military zone.
The UNDP is staking an area in Jordan called the Al Azraq desert, planning to build 60,000 small buildings. A friend, already a refugee, is telling the story. “They say these are for the Palestinians. There are Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine. I think when this war starts they’re going to transfer a lot from here.” He’s sitting in the home he built in the camp, his eyes are teary, at once defiant and defeated. He goes on, “What can we do if they start loading families into buses. We can’t stop them. The Israeli government just said in 2025 there will be more Palestinians in Palestine than Israelis. They say the solution is to transfer one million Palestinians out of Palestine. I think this is the most dangerous news.”
Families who were given “permission” by the Israeli military to visit family members for Eid, those who the Israeli government exiled from the West Bank to Gaza were stopped by Israeli soldiers along the way, new clothes and haircuts for nothing.
While the Israeli government is talking about “the solution,” reporters are calling, asking about the so-called peace negotiations being held inside ’48. These are meetings that Sharon has denied permission to Palestinian President Arafat to attend.