YESTERDAY (Thursday, 20th February) Zakaria and I went to visit the village of Kusra on the way up to meeting some Bedouin in the Northern Jordan valley regarding demolition orders they had received. We expected it to be a short visit to pay our respects to the Mayor Abdel Adim and to inquire as to the fate of the olive trees we had planted there on Tu BeShvat. We were accompanied by three young Americans from the Michigan Peace Team who were interested in learning more about what we do.
We were graciously received in the town council, served coffee and were hearing about the problems faced by this Palestinian community from some of their settler neighbours and the army (including seeing photos of trees vandalized and people who had been injured there in the past) when someone came running into the council offices. They declared that “The army is here in the village! Come quick!”
The sight that met us on the southeastern side of the village was unfortunately all too familiar. Just beyond the last house we saw a bulldozer approaching accompanied by a couple of army jeeps. On coming closer one could see that they were border police who were in full riot gear, obviously ready for trouble. They refused to talk to anyone, formed a cordon and began pushing people away as the bulldozer began its work, knocking down an electric pole. The border guards were restrained at first but they continued pushing and were not willing to give any explanations or written orders. There had been no previous warning that a demolition was planned for that day as far as I could discern.
Young men and adoloscents began to arrive, running, and gathered near the soldiers and bulldozer as it knocked down a second pole. There was a lot of angry shouting. Attempts by the mayor to encourage restraint failed and soon some of the young kids started throwing rocks, immediately followed by a volley of teargas cannisters. Zakaria and I retreated to his jeep, the young Americans stayed taking photos, later to rejoin us, shocked and eyes streaming and red from the teargas.
After a second round of tear gas we spotted someone, wearing a red sweater or shirt, lying on the ground near the soldiers. Zakaria called out that there was someone wounded, but to no avail. The shooting and stone-throwing continued. We tried approaching slowly in the car, calling out that someone was wounded.We successfully got the young men near us to stop throwing rocks, but the army opened fire again almost hitting us. We closed the windows and retreated again. Phonecalls to a local DCO officer made it possible to get a Palestinian ambulance in to help the wounded man – still lying on the ground, and another who had also been injured. I was told he was a diabetic who also suffered from asthma. He had been lying on the ground not moving much for a long time and we were seriously concerned for his life.
The young man was being given oxygen and sitting up as we left. He was very red in the face, but he was alive!
Apparently a couple of soldiers were also injured, but that must have happened after we left. (Throughout the entire event I saw no attempt by my fellow Israelis to take care of the injured of either side!)
One wonders if the whole absurd and dangerous episode could have been avoided had there been warning on the part of the army, and of course why any of this was necessary at all since there was no obvious reason for the demolition to take place in the first place. The electric poles were on the edge of the village in an area which was we were told (confirmed by maps received from Dror Atkes) on the border between area B and C
The nearest illegal outpost Esh Kodesh also has “unplanned” infrastructure, including electric poles, but nothing is ever done to remove those, not to speak of removing the trouble-making outpost itself.
The next night “unknown” visitors entered the village of Kusra, arsoned and destroyed six vehicles in a Price Tag attack.
Neither this violence nor that of either the army or the young Palestinians will lead us in any positive direction, certainly not towards peace or coexistence.
The blatant injustice and discrimination in this case is outrageous and a profound offence against Torah which teaches us to treat all equally before the Law!
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann
Director, Dept. of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Rabbis For Human Rights