Category Archives: Israel/Palestine

Interview on the UN Palmer report on Mavi Marmara raid

New York-based writer (among other vocations) J.A. Myerson interviewed me yesterday about the just-released United Nations Palmer report on the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara.  Excerpts:

J.A. Myerson: The New York Times is reporting that it has obtained a copy of a United Nations review, which comes out tomorrow, regarding Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, when Israel killed nine people, including an American. The primary findings of the review appear to be a) that Israel used excessive force when it boarded the flotilla but that some force was apparently justified, given the hostility that Israeli commandos encountered upon boarding, and b) That Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was trying to break, is justified and appropriate. Among opponents of the blockade of Gaza, of which you and I are two, it’s an accepted truism that one reason to oppose the blockade is its illegality. What is the argument that the blockade is illegal, if that is indeed what you believe, and what is your response to the UN review contesting that description?

Alex Kane: The full naval-land-air blockade that the Gaza Strip is under was instituted first following the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories when Hamas won what were widely acknowledged to be democratic elections. One justification for the blockade that Israel cites is that Hamas is holding Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier, in captivity. Israel also contends that the blockade exists for security reasons.

But what’s clear under international law, under the Geneva Conventions, is that collective punishment is illegal, and the blockade of Gaza is illegal because it constitutes collective punishment. Israel is punishing every single person in the Gaza strip, roughly half of whom are under the age of 18, for having voted in democratic elections and for the political positions that Hamas espouses.

The blockade is also, as Yousef Munayyer of the Palestine Center pointed out last June, in violation of Part V Section II (102) of the San Remo Manual on International Law, which prohibits blockades a) that have the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential to its survival; or b) under which the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.

Numerous UN reports and bodies have deemed the blockade illegal as collective punishment. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said so, Richard Goldstone in the Goldstone Report said so, the independent Human Rights Council report on the raid on the Mavi Marmara said so, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said so. So we can play a numbers game, in that there are far more instances of respected international bodies as well as respected human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that have deemed the blockade illegal, and now we have this one panel saying that it is legal.

The other thing is that you have to look at the makeup of the panel tasked with this investigation of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara and the five other ships that were part of the first Freedom Flotilla. The big red flag that people should focus on is the fact that Álvaro Uribe of Colombia was one of the two supposedly independent observers on this committee. Uribe cannot plausibly be thought of as impartial on issues of human rights. He has himself been implicated in numerous human rights abuses as president of Colombia and he is also an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel. So that also calls into question the impartiality of this panel, which was the one panel of inquiry that the UN set up that Israel agreed to cooperate with.

JAM: If this panel is reputed by its commissioning body to have been impartial and the makeup of the body indicts is as being impartial, that suggests that it was commissioned in order not to be impartial, in other words that it was commissioned in order to deliver these results. How do you account for that?

AK: Yes. That’s an accurate assessment.

You have to go back to right after the flotilla incident in 2010. After this happened, when nine people ended up dead and dozens injured, Israel came under a huge amount of pressure in a variety of ways, both from states and from global civil society in the form of the BDS Movement. My reading is that, in order to deflect this pressure, and after some prodding by the Obama Administration, Israel finally agreed to cooperate with this panel. This is a first for Israel. Israel does not often cooperate with the UN, so you have to wonder what was going on behind closed doors and what was said to Israel to make it suddenly cooperate with the UN, especially about an issue as politically charged as its raid on the flotilla.

Another important thing to note is that the mandate of the panel coming out with this report did not give the panel much power. It did not call witnesses, it did not collect documents. It was called a fact finding mission. And it seems like the panel has collected the Israeli side and the Turkish side and kind of plopped it in this report. That’s what I gather the report was. The point of it was not to be an independent investigation that was designed to get to the bottom of who was at fault, who was wrong, what should happen.

Read the full interview here.

Despite boycott law, Israeli BDS activists forge ahead: an interview with Kobi Snitz

This article originally appeared on Mondoweiss.

The anti-boycott law passed by the Israeli Knesset in July was aimed at slowing down the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel for its violations of international law.  But the Palestinian-led BDS movement, both inside and outside Israel, has showed no signs of slowing.  The most recent victory the movement is claiming is the liquidation of Agrexco, an Israeli produce exporter that has long been a target of the BDS movement because of the company’s involvement in illegal Israeli settlements.

The law has also done nothing to deter the small group of Israeli activists part of Boycott From Within, a group of Israeli citizens in solidarity with the Palestinian BDS call.  The group has continued to call on various groups and artists to not violate the BDS call.

I recently sat down with Kobi Snitz, a member of Boycott From Within and a prominent activist with Anarchists Against the Wall, after an anti-settlement demonstration in the West Bank village of Beit Ommar.  We discussed the boycott law, what it means for the internal Israeli BDS movement, the potential Israeli High Court response and more.

Alex Kane: My first question is what your general take is on the boycott law?

Kobi Snitz: I think the most significant thing is that it’s a sign of desperation on the part of the Israeli government. They’re helpless in stopping the boycott movement. All that’s left for them is to try internal repression. I think that they recognize it themselves. Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, spoke about the [powerful] BDS movement.

There’s nothing that they can do abroad. The myths about their hasbara prowess is just that. It’s not so. It’s a paper tiger. They have no understanding and no ability to influence public opinion abroad. Whatever’s not handed to them for free they’re unable to do in terms of their image abroad. And this case demonstrates their inability to stop a genuine movement.

AK: Ostensibly, the point of the law was to protect Israel’s image abroad, but do you think it will backfire?

KS: Of course. There was significant Israeli opposition to it, on those grounds, that it will be counterproductive, in their terms. There is some genuine liberal opposition to a law that punishes a particular opinion, but much of the internal Israeli critique is about it being counterproductive.

AK: What do you make of that critique?

KS: Well, it’s unprincipled. It implies that it would have been legitimate only if it was productive, if it did achieve the stated aims. I think on many grounds it’s illegitimate, the first of them being the attempt to punish people for their opinions. Secondly, because the boycott movement is legitimate, and attempts to stop it are illegitimate.

AK: Do you think the Israeli High Court will do anything about it, and if so, what will that mean?

KS: It’s hard to say with them. I think the Israeli Supreme Court rarely strikes down laws. They do restrain the government and the army somewhat, but not so much by striking down policies but letting the state understand, get a sense of, when they’ve gone too far. And when they are forced to make a decision, they might aim for a decision that seems to be the liberal one, seems to be taking a position against a law, but in effect keeps it in place. They could limit some meaningless parts of the law, but keep the core of it intact. Then again, they could just refuse to deal with it, as they have in many other cases. Some decisions, like the torture law and the assassination law, they just dragged on for years and years. If they don’t want to confront the government, that’s another option for the High Court, to drag it on for years.

AK: Has the boycott law affected you and others involved with the internal Israeli BDS movement?

KS: It has made people worried. No one knows how it will be applied, who will be sued. I think the most striking example of it is Gush Shalom. They called for a settlement boycott about 15 years ago, but when the law passed, they took it off their website. Their position is they cannot afford the risk of being sued over it.

AK: On the other hand, Peace Now has called for a settlement boycott.

KS: That’s right, and Gush Shalom had to admit, reluctantly maybe, that for the first time in its history, Peace Now is more radical than Gush Shalom. And I have to say, I’m not a big fan of Peace Now, but their response to this, I see nothing wrong with it, they’ve been right on, including not splitting the opposition along the lines of “settlement boycott, OK, Israel boycott, not OK.” Even Peace Now did not do that, at least not prominently that I have seen.

AK: But Boycott From Within hasn’t taken down their website.

KS: No, we haven’t. We keep going the same as we have before. We issued a statement saying we resist the law, and we will continue. Our response is less visible—we’re not exactly an Israeli group in the sense that we work inside Israel or that our main objective is to influence Israeli opinion. So, unlike Gush Shalom, unlike Peace Now—they are an Israeli group in the sense that they try to influence the Israeli public—I don’t think Boycott From Within does that. The internal response is less relevant.

AK: So you’re going to continue to call for boycotts.

KS: We have, yeah, we’ve issued statements just as before.

AK: And what do you think it means in the larger political context of the assault on Israeli democracy, meaning the democracy that does exist for Israeli Jews?

KS: I think this is probably the most far reaching attempt at this move, because it ‘s designed to shut down organization, it’s designed to silence particular people and bankrupt them. I think this one goes the furthest out of all the previous such laws, such as the Nakba law, such as the loyalty laws, and whatever is coming up next.

Israel’s apartheid policing

This article originally appeared on the blog Waging Nonviolence.

Israeli activists are hoping for a “million strong” march for social justice next weekend in protest of the high cost-of-living there and neoliberal economic policies. And while those demonstrations will likely shut down normal life in Israeli cities, there is little chance that the Israeli police will use tear gas or Qrubber bullets on the protesters. But over the weekend, the Israeli military met a peaceful protest at the Qalandia checkpoint calling for free Palestinian access to Jerusalem with excessive force. This is no surprise.

Whatever the issue—water allocation, permits for building, income levels—there exists massive inequalities between Jews and Palestinians as a result of Israeli policies. Israel privileges the Jewish residents it governs and systematically excludes and marginalizes the Palestinians under its control.

The Israeli police’s response to the outbreak of the July 14 social justice movement across the state exposes one more separate and unequal facet of Israeli policy: how the state responds to unarmed protests. Israeli Jewish protesters angry about the cost of living do not pose as big of a threat to the Israeli establishment as those who explicitly challenge the occupation and Israel’s system of racial discrimination. That much is clear when comparing security forces’ response to the different types of protests that occur between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

“Israelis are very hospitable to nonviolent protests by Jews. So I wouldn’t say that the police were too tough on the protesters, especially when you consider what’s going on in the West Bank,” Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf said in a recent interview on Israel’s social justice movement.

The burgeoning protest movement across Israel has held a succession of massive rallies that have brought hundreds of thousands into the street. While there have been some arrests for shutting down roads, Israeli Jewish protesters, who make up the vast majority of those participating in the J14 movement, have been quickly released. Tent encampments across Israel remain untouched for the most part.

Even within Israel, there are illustrations of the Israeli government’s ethnicity and political-based policing. The tent encampment that has arguably suffered the most from police harassment has been the one in South Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Park, where African asylum-seekers and Ethiopian-Israelis have joined in. According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, officers in uniform, accompanied by non-identified civilians, demolished an encampment there July 24, telling the protesters, “you brought Sudanese here.” And there has been different treatment reserved for those arrestees who are veteran Israeli activists in the joint struggle against the occupation.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian unarmed struggle continues to be brutally repressed. Weekly military incursions into Palestinian villages resisting settlements or the separation barrier continue to be a common occurrence, and unarmed protests continue to face down the Israeli military’s might.

A recent reporting trip I took through both occupied Palestine and Israel demonstrated these disparities starkly.

The West Bank village of Nabi Saleh has been resisting the expropriation of a nearby spring by the Halamish settlement at great cost. Eyad Tamimi, a popular committee activist in Nabi Saleh, told me that everyone in the village has been or knows someone who has been arrested by the Israeli military. Sixty of those who have been wounded by the Israel Defense Forces during the demonstrations are children.

“The Israeli government and military thinks Nabi Saleh is a virus, and they want to crush it before it spreads,” says Bashir Tamimi, another member of the popular committee in Nabi Saleh, which organizes the weekly Friday protests.

Recently, activists in Nabi Saleh set up their own tent in the village, mirroring Israel’s protests, and carried it during a protest “to tell the Israeli protest movement that their demands for social justice must include implementing the rights of Palestinians.” It was shot at and destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces.

The day after I visited Nabi Saleh, I found myself in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem. An environmental-themed tent encampment had been set up there. Israelis milled around, smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and played acoustic guitar. Jarringly, there was no indication that just a short drive away, there existed another protest movement that was being brutally repressed.

It is clear that the “virus” of Nabi Saleh that challenges the Israeli occupation will not spread to Israel’s social justice movement. There is a strong aversion in the tent protests to connect social justice to the occupation.

And so the apartheid policing that the Israeli security forces practice will continue unabated so long as Israel’s housing protesters do not challenge the marginalization of the Palestinians they live so close to. This will surely be on display on September 3, as hundreds of thousands of Israelis will march without fear of injury the day after weekly protests in the West Bank are met with the Israeli military’s excessive force.

(UPDATED) Serious questions on Palestine UN bid raised in legal opinion

This article originally appeared on Mondoweiss.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) bid for United Nations recognition of a state of Palestine next month a diplomatic “tsunami.”  The United States has threatened to cut off aid to the PA if they proceed with the UN gambit.  But more importantly, a legal opinion submitted to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from the other side of the debate over the UN bid has raised serious and alarming questions about the PA’s plans.

The opinion, written by a law professor who was on the team that successfully challenged Israel’s separation barrier at the International Court of Justice, tackles the issues of Palestinian self-determination and the right of return.  Guy Goodwin Gill, the author of the opinion, recently told Al Jazeera English that he doubts that Palestinian refugees would “be enfranchised through the creation of a state.”  Senior PLO member Hanan Ashrawi has dismissed the concerns raised by Gill.

Excerpts from Goodwin Gill’s legal opinion read:

I am advised that one possibility being debated involves the replacement of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its ‘substitution’, within the United Nations, by the State of Palestine as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. In my view, this raises, first, what I will call ‘constitutional’ problems (in that they engage the Palestinian National Charter and the organization and entities which make up the PLO); secondly, the question of the ‘capacity’ of the State of Palestine effectively to take on the role and responsibilities of the PLO in the UN; and thirdly, the question of popular representation…

Until such a time as a final settlement is agreed, the putative State of Palestine will have no territory over which it exercises effective sovereignty, its borders will be indeterminate or disputed, its population, actual and potential, undetermined and many of them continuing to live under occupation or in States of refuge. While it may be an observer State in the United Nations, it will fall short of meeting the internationally agreed criteria of statehood, with serious implications for Palestinians at large, particularly as concerns the popular representation of those not currently present in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The significant link between the Palestinian National Council and the diaspora has been noted above in paragraph 4. They constitute more than half of the people of Palestine, and if they are ‘disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only prejudice their entitlement to equal representation, contrary to the will of the General Assembly, but also their ability to vocalise their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the State, and to exercise the right of return.
In my opinion, current moves to secure recognition of statehood do not appear to reflect fully the role of the Palestinian people as a principal party in the resolution of the situation in the Middle East.

The interests of the Palestinian people are at risk of prejudice and fragmentation, unless steps are taken to ensure and maintain their representation through the Palestinian Liberation Organization, until such time as there is in place a State competent and fully able to assume these responsibilities towards the people at large.

The legal concerns raised in the opinion further reflect the skepticism of many Palestinians about the UN bid, as a piece by Mohammed Rabah Suliman in the Electronic Intifada recently pointed out.

Ali Abunimah also recently enunciated these concerns:

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority’s (PA) effort to seek UN recognition of “statehood” unilaterally, without consulting the Palestinian people from which the PA has absolutely no mandate, has raised fears among Palestinians that the move could actually harm Palestinian rights.

If the UN votes to admit the “State of Palestine,” it is likely that the unelected representatives of the Palestinian Authority would be seated in the General Assembly instead of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which currently holds the Palestine observer seat at the UN..

This would be a severe blow to the potential for realizing Palestinian rights in the long run through international bodies: whereas the PLO ostensibly represents all Palestinians, the PA “state” would only represent its “citizens” – residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Of course in reality this “state” would not represent anyone since it would have absolutely no control of the territory on which it purports to exist and its “government” – what is now the Palestinian Authority – would remain subject to the blackmail and pressure of its financiers and external political sponsors.

As September approaches, these concerns become ever more pressing.

UPDATE:  It’s only fair to link to some expert legal opinion that doesn’t agree with Goodwin-Gill’s.  Francis Boyle, who advised the Palestinian leadership on their 1988 Declaration of Independence, says that Goodwin-Gill’s opinion is “based on many erroneous assumption.”  The full piece is at CounterPunch.

Meanwhile, Ma’an News Agency has published four other opinions on the PA’s UN bid.  Some of them agree with Goodwin-Gill, others oppose.  It’s worth reading.

Palestinian non-violent protesters “knock on Jerusalem doors”

Yesterday, Palestinians protested against Israeli policies that deny Palestinians free access to Jerusalem.  While the number of demonstrators was not large–over 200 participated at the Qalandia demonstration, according to Palestinian blogger Jalal Abukhater–Israeli forces still used excessive force on the protesters.  The Los Angeles Times covers the demonstration here.  Meanwhile, two days ago I wrote a preview of the demonstrations and the movement behind it for +972 Magazine:

Sitting outside a Tamimi family house in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on a recent August evening, the conversation shifted from discussion of the previous Friday’s nonviolent protest to planned demonstrations for Friday, August 26. On normal Fridays in Nabi Saleh—if you can call it normal—residents of the village along with Israeli and international supporters attempt to march to a nearby spring that has been expropriated by the settlers of Halamish, whose red-tiled roofs and identical suburban houses overlook the village outside of Ramallah.  The nonviolent protests are, without fail, met with extreme violence by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF); some 30% of the population has been wounded since the demonstrations started, 60 of them children.

But the conversation that evening moved on to talk of a new campaign beginning on August 26.  The shift in conversation was a precursor to the shift in focus, energy and activism planned for tomorrow.

Calling their campaign the “Olive Revolution,” a coalition of popular committees—Nabi Saleh’s included—and youth groups in the West Bank have planned mass demonstrations for tomorrow to take place at the “four doors” of Jerusalem.  “We state that Jerusalem will remain the jewel of the Arabs and capital of our future country. Jerusalem is the symbol of our pride and our national dignity [and] that’s why we are going to knock on its doors by popular demonstrations and non-violent activities,” a recent statement by the “Olive Revolution” group reads.

Instead of the weekly protests in different West Bank villages, the popular committees and other activists are combining forces.  The protests are planned to take place at the Qalandia checkpoint, the separation barrier in Biddu, Shuafat and the southern gate at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.  The four areas highlight places where checkpoints and the separation barrier have cut off unimpeded Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life.  And while access to Jerusalem has been made difficult to near impossible by Israeli policies, illegal Jewish settlements surrounding Jerusalem have easy access to what Israel calls its eternal and undivided “capital.”

The demonstrations are all part of a strategy that Bashir Tamimi, a popular committee organizer in Nabi Saleh, hopes will “smash the occupation” in order to “have our freedom.”  In addition to highlighting the lack of Palestinian access to Jerusalem, the “Olive Revolution” also wants to draw attention to the religious restrictions the separation barrier and checkpoints place on Muslims who want to pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most holy sites.  According to the group’s website, “four famous Islamic scholars will come” and participate in the protests.

The “last Friday of Ramadan is the holiest time of Ramadan, and the Palestinian people used to go to Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque at that time and now most of them will not go, so we want to pray and nonviolently demonstrate at the four doors of Jerusalem,” Ayed Morrar, an “Olive Revolution” organizer and leading popular committee activist in Budrus, said in an interview at the Fatah Central Committee office in Ramallah.  Morrar provided more details on the planned campaign during the interview.

Read the whole piece here.

West Bank village under siege faces live-ammo, arrests and concussion grenades at nonviolent demo

The West Bank village of Beit Ommar has had a tough August, withstanding frequent Israeli military raids that see soldiers shoot tear-gas into residential areas and arrest Palestinian minors.  Last Saturday, the month got even tougher for activists resisting illegal Israeli settlements and land confiscation. 

The Israeli military repressed the Beit Ommar popular committee’s most recent demonstration on August 20.  The Israel Defense Forces fired live ammunition and concussion grenades, arrested five people, and broke the arm of a member of the committee before they detained him. 

(Watch video of the demonstration here):

The demonstrators, who protest weekly, were attempting to attempting to access Beit Ommar’s land near the settlement of Karmei Tzur and were also expressing solidarity with the people of Gaza, which until last night has been under a sustained air assault by the Israeli Air Force. 

The Ma’an News Agency reported on the Beit Ommar protest:

Israeli forces on Saturday used live ammunition to disperse a demonstration against land confiscation in Beit Ummar near Hebron, local officials said.

Popular committee spokesman Younis Arar said soldiers stormed the rally as demonstrators marched toward the illegal Karmi Zur settlement, built on Palestinian-owned land.

Arar said it was the first time Israeli troops used live bullets at the weekly protest in Beit Ummar. He added that forces assaulted several protesters.

Yousef Abu Marya, a popular committee member in Beit Ommar, was “brutally beaten” and had his arm broken by Israeli soldiers, according to the Palestine Solidarity Project, a Beit Ommar-based Palestinian-led direct action group.  Last week, while I was reporting from Beit Ommar, Abu Marya told me the Israeli military broke his arm two times before, in May and July of this year

According to an international activist with the Palestine Solidarity Project, the IDF refused to let Abu Marya see a doctor for at least eight hours. 

Beit Ommar’s recent troubles did not begin on Saturday, though.  As I reported for +972 Magazine last week, the IDF has raided the village of 16,000 five times during August:

A spate of Israeli army raids at night and arrests of young Palestinians have occurred since the beginning of August, shattering any hope for calm during Ramadan.  While Israeli military incursions into Beit Ommar are common, residents and activists say that the number of raids and arrests that have occurred in August is particularly high.  There have been five occasions this month in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have invaded the village, three of them that have occurred this past week—and the month is not even half over.

Witnesses to the raids and local activists say that the Israeli army has been shooting tear gas, sound bombs and flares into residential areas—in some cases causing injuries—and have arrested fifteen young Palestinians under the age of eighteen this month.  A landmark B’Tselem report recently released highlighted how common the arrest of minors is in the occupied territories…

The Israeli army’s repression in the village has not been limited to night raids, though. For the first time during the month of Ramadan, Beit Ommar residents and Israeli and international activists held a demonstration August 13, protesting land confiscation and the nearby settlement of Karmei Tzur.  At the demonstration, IDF soldiers repeatedly pushed back Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar attempting to access their land near the settlement, which was declared a closed military zone.  Beit Ommar is surrounded by six settlements, of which Karmei Tzur is one.

When the demonstration was over, one Palestinian, a forty-two year old man named Sakhar Abu Marya, was arrested and taken into a military jeep.  Recounting the events later, he said that a hood was placed over his head, and that he was beaten by the soldiers. While he was interrogated, soldiers said that, while they would release him now, they would come to his house later and arrest him.  Soldiers also brought out food and soda to mock Abu Marya, who is fasting for Ramadan.  He was then dropped off at the gate of the Karmei Tzur settlement, without being charged with anything.

Dispatch from Beit Ommar: IDF raids same West Bank town 5 times in last 2 weeks

This article originally appeared in +972 Magazine.

Israeli soldiers push down Mousa and Yousef Abu Marya, Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar protesting land confiscation and illegal settlements. (PHOTO: Alex Kane)

Beit Ommar, West Bank—The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is meant to be a time for reflection and spirituality.  But for the 16,000 residents of this rural, agricultural village near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, it has been an unusually tense one.I

A spate of Israeli army raids at night and arrests of young Palestinians have occurred since the beginning of August, shattering any hope for calm during Ramadan.  While Israeli military incursions into Beit Ommar are common, residents and activists say that the number of raids and arrests that have occurred in August is particularly high.  There have been five occasions this month in which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have invaded the village, three of them that have occurred this past week—and the month is not even half over.

Witnesses to the raids and local activists say that the Israeli army has been shooting tear gas, sound bombs and flares into residential areas—in some cases causing injuries—and have arrested fifteen young Palestinians under the age of eighteen this month.  A landmark B’Tselem report recently released highlighted how common the arrest of minors is in the occupied territories.

“It just looked like a training exercise.  It just looked like they were practicing coming into town tear gassing people back and practicing flares,” said one international activist with the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP), a Beit Ommar-based Palestinian-led direct action group, when asked to describe an August 11 raid he was witness to.

One incursion, which took place on August 6, saw the IDF invade the village and disrupt a party held in a local park meant to celebrate the release of a prisoner from Beit Ommar. Five Palestinians were arrested, and some Beit Ommar residents, including women and children, were hospitalized due to tear gas inhalation, according to the PSP.  A 16-year-old Beit Ommar resident described the scene at the park similarly.

Mousa Abu Marya, a popular committee coordinator in Beit Ommar, said he thinks the high number of raids is meant to intimidate people ahead of September, when the world’s eyes will turn to Palestine as the Palestinian Authority makes a statehood bid at the United Nations.

The August 11 raid affected the Abu Marya house, with tear gas canisters hitting the residence, leaving visible marks on their driveway.  The tear-gas caused the bottom half of their house to become inhabitable for the night.

“Maybe they’re scared of September,” Abu Marya told me as we were sitting in an office at the Beit Ommar-based Center for Freedom and Justice.  “I think they want to make the soldiers ready for anything in September.”

A joint coalition of popular committees, including Beit Ommar’s, who held a popular resistance conference in mid-July drafted a statement that called September an “immense popular battle.”

September is “not the end of the road,” said Younes Arar, the executive manager of the Center for Freedom and Justice.  “But it is an important station in the Palestinian political situation.”

Meanwhile, a senior minister in the Israeli government has said that Israel may call up its reserve forces for September.  The IDF has also purchased $22 million worth of new military equipment in preparation for large-scale September protests.

The Israeli army’s repression in the village has not been limited to night raids, though. For the first time during the month of Ramadan, Beit Ommar residents and Israeli and international activists held a demonstration August 13, protesting land confiscation and the nearby settlement of Karmei Tzur.  At the demonstration, IDF soldiers repeatedly pushed back Palestinian residents of Beit Ommar attempting to access their land near the settlement, which was declared a closed military zone.  Beit Ommar is surrounded by six settlements, of which Karmei Tzur is one.

When the demonstration was over, one Palestinian, a forty-two year old man named Sakhar Abu Marya, was arrested and taken into a military jeep. Recounting the events later, he said that a hood was placed over his head, and that he was beaten by the soldiers. While he was interrogated, soldiers said that, while they would release him now, they would come to his house later and arrest him.  Soldiers also brought out food and soda to mock Abu Marya, who is fasting for Ramadan.  He was then dropped off at the gate of the Karmei Tzur settlement, without being charged with anything.