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"Let Go or I'll Cut Your Arms Off"

A Busy Day for Bulldozers

by GILA SVIRSKY

It’s been a busy day today for Israeli bulldozers. They had to do 16 houses by sundown, and they couldn’t start until the men who live in them had gone off to work in the morning. But those machines are tireless, and by the end of the day, you could find 16 families sitting on heaps of rubble, weeping and cursing. Children, too.

It was also a busy night for the boys in Tulkarm. That’s the Palestinian town where our soldiers forced 1,500 men out of their homes in the middle of the night, put them on trucks, and then drove several miles out of town to dump them out, with orders not to return home ‘for a few days’. And then the soldiers had to put the town under curfew, just in case the women wanted to go out looking for them.

So now we have several man-made tragedies of the last 24 hours, but it couldn’t have been very interesting. Not a photo or even a word about it appeared on the 45-minute TV news tonight on channel 2. Though we did get a very extended item about why the national Israeli soccer team again lost to France. Now that’s sad.

Three of us women–Na’ama from the Israel Committee Against House Demolitions, Sylvia from Peace Now, and me from the Coalition of Women for Peace–had a big argument with one of the bulldozers at Sur Baher (just outside Jerusalem) this morning. The bulldozer wanted to knock down the house, and we wanted to knock down the bulldozer. Well, actually we just wanted to stop its progress. Our presence standing between it and the house worked beautifully until the soldiers dragged us away along the rocky, thorny hillside. Thanks to three other activists for their support and photos.

Here are some remarks I heard today:

Soldier #1: They have to knock it down–there are terrorists inside.

Soldier #2: No, it’s because they’re building the security fence right here.

Soldier #3: No, it’s because they were built illegally.

None of the above. The homes demolished today were all in one neighborhood, and our best guess is that this is on the planned route of new bypass road #80.

More remarks, these directed to the peace activists:

Officer #1: See that? [Palestinians trying to protect their homes.] You’re inciting them to violence.

Officer #2: Your presence here is illegal.

Soldier: Let go of each other or I’ll cut your arms off.

And now some Palestinian remarks made to the soldiers:

Villager #1: You better kill us, because if you don’t, we’ll kill you.

Villager #2: See that kid over there? You just turned him into a suicide bomber.

And a Palestinian woman who alternately cried and shouted in broken English, "You are animals, where is your humanity, don’t you have a mother?"

It’s been that kind of day for the Israeli soldiers. In addition to having to work from dawn to dusk, and sometimes in the middle of the night, they have to put up with insults and violence.

Oh, and did I mention that one of those houses destroyed–for the world-record fourth time–was the home of Salim and Arabiyyeh Shawamreh? That’s also the home of Lena, their daughter, who I wrote about 5 years ago in ‘Lena doesn’t live here anymore’.

Oh, and did I mention that March was a particularly busy month? 99 Palestinians were killed, 28 of them children. It’s a good thing it’s April now! Ooops, I spoke too soon. Seven more were killed today, and still an hour before midnight…

The Israeli army keeps turning the screws, but, hey, what’s going on in Baghdad?

GILA SVIRSKY lives in Jerusalem. She is a member of Coalition of Women for Peace. She can be reached at: gsvirsky@netvision.net.il

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