‘Human Shields’ Support Non-Violent Palestinians and Israelis

To make up for the international community’s failure to send a protection force, or even monitors, to the occupied Palestinian territories, foreign human rights activists are volunteering to shield Palestinian civilians from Israeli abuse and military action. Private citizens are doing the job their governments have refused to undertake.

To make up for the international community’s failure to send a protection force, or even monitors, to the occupied Palestinian territories, foreign human rights activists are volunteering to shield Palestinian civilians from Israeli abuse and military action. Private citizens are doing the job their governments have refused to undertake.

A group of 40 fresh volunteers from the US and Europe arrived yesterday. Heidi Arraf, spokeswoman of the International Solidarity Movement, told this
correspondent that the volunteers will receive training so they can take part alongside Palestinians in a campaign to lift the siege and end the
blockade of Palestinian towns and villages.

Arraf, who comes from Detroit, Michigan, said that volunteers will participate in mass actions designed to open roads, demolish earthworks and fill trenches around Palestinian population centres.

Volunteers will also accompany Palestinian farmers to their fields so they can harvest their crops without Israeli army and settler harassment.

Earlier arrivals and locally based volunteers continue to spend nights in repeatedly shelled Palestinian homes in the village of Beit Jala adjacent to
Bethlehem. Arraf said that as long as Israeli tanks menaced Beit Jala an average of 30 “human shields” were deployed, two to a house, every night.

At present eight deploy, one in each home. The volunteers maintain secrecy about their positions so the Israeli army does not know exactly where they
are, forcing gunners to curb random fire. While this policy puts the volunteers at considerable risk, it also restrains the Israelis who, Arraf said: “Do not want a public relations disaster on their hands.”

Ronald Forthofer, 57, from Longmont, Colorado, explained why they had come: “We believe that we who are protected in America should experience and live in the same way that Palestinians are living.”

Volunteers include members of Christian denominations as well as European, Japanese and Israeli peace activists.

Neta Golan, one of two Israeli women acting as “human shields,” has been staying in the village for the past few weeks. “I am living with a family in which a five-year-old boy lost a hand from Israeli fire a few weeks ago.”

She said that activists “are not deluded into believing” that they can prevent Israeli shooting. “We aren’t here to provide cover for Palestinian snipers but for the civilians who are hit by Israeli fire,” she stated.

One of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) sponsoring the campaign is the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement in Beit Sahour [ www.rapprochement.org ], next to Beit Jala. The centre’s offices have been repeatedly shelled, Arraf observed.

Israeli defence ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror called the group’s deployment in Beit Jala a provocation and expressed his opinion that participants are anti-Israeli.

While middle-aged US citizens put their lives on the line in Beit Jala, on the roads and in the fields of the occupied West Bank, Washington continues to dither over the sending of “observers” to monitor flash points in the escalating Israeli war of attrition.

The [U.S.] administration has done nothing to force Israel to desist from its murderous tactics. Instead, this week the Israeli army loosened its rules of
engagement, giving Israeli soldiers and hit squads a freer hand in dealing with Palestinians resisting the occupation.

Bring on the “human shields.”

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Al Khader Today: the True Face of the Israeli Occupation in a Nutshell – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1426

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Palestine 102: “Barak’s Generous Offers” A Political Map of Israel’s Proposed Borders with Palestine – http://www.theexperiment.org/articles.php?news_id=1404
]

Author: Michael Jansen

News Service: The Jordan Times – August 9, 2001

URL: http://indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=58746