Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.


Posted by Andy Hockley on 6 May, 2003

Every time I arrive in Israel – whether it be through Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, or a bridge from Jordan – I get the same grilling. Why am I here? What possible reason could I have for going to the West Bank? In some cases, it seems like I am being deliberately hassled for choosing to work there, in others I have detected a clear and innocent fear for my safety. As far as most Israelis are concerned, the territories are a terrifying place, a war zone in which no-one is safe. There is (in some cases) a genuine concern for my safety. “Don’t you know how dangerous it is there?”

They have power over me – the power to deny me entry, to deny me access to my workplace and to my students – and for this reason I bite my tongue, and concur that it is dangerous and that I am aware of the dangers. What I want to do is respond honestly. To agree with their assessment of the dangers to everyone living and working in Palestine – be they Palestinian or foreigner – but to tell them, honestly, where that danger comes from. Even during the early stages of the war in Iraq, when there was a concern that the justified anger at Americans and Britons would be taken out on citizens of those nations, neither I, nor any of my colleagues, felt threatened by anti-“coalition” violence from Palestinians. The danger to us comes not from Arabs, but from Israeli troops.

It is the stated goal of some members of the current Israeli government to ethnically cleanse Palestine of Palestinians (under the euphemism “transfer”). It seems increasingly like the new first goal is to rid the territories of foreign observers to this act. The first casualties of this war on witnesses were the International Solidarity Movement, a group of peace activists, working to protect and support ordinary Palestinian civilians as they desperately try to go about their abnormal lives. Rachel Corrie from Washington State was run over by a bulldozer while in clear view of the driver. Brian Avery from New Mexico was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier, while standing on a street corner. Tom Hurndall from the UK was shot in the back of the head by an Israeli sniper while shepherding some children to safety. These events have a number of aspects in common – they all took place in daylight, all three victims were wearing fluorescent vests that identified them as observers, and all three events took place without provocation – despite the Israeli army’s attempts to characterize them as happening as accidents during “gun battles”.

ISM have now been officially told that they are not wanted here. To get into the country they will have to lie about their intentions, as border guards and airport staff have been told to deny them entry. Those who are currently here are threatened with deportation. This has been done under the guise of an accusation of the organization working with terrorists, because one of the two British men who carried out the attack in Tel Aviv last week visited the office of ISM in Gaza. An office that sees a constant stream of human traffic, people asking for help escorting their grandmother to hospital or protecting their property from bulldozers, or assisting them in harvesting their crops.

Now it seems attention is moving towards journalists. A group of people that Israel would dearly love to see the back of. A group of people who, despite intense pressure from pro-occupation so-called “media watchdog” groups, continue to venture to the front line to report on the latest atrocities committed by the IDF – whether it be the murder of civilians, the open-air executions without trial of “suspected militants”, or the general day to day actions designed to make people’s lives as miserable as possible. James Miller, a Channel 4 documentarian was killed in similar circumstances to the ISM shootings. Clearly marked as a member of the press, at night, but under a light, so clearly visible.

Last night, I spoke to a friend, a British TV journalist working for a Dubai based station. The fear and exhaustion were evident in his voice. Sharon is no doubt banking on this fear to drive the witnesses to his crimes away. Who is next? Teachers? UN and humanitarian organizations? Now we are in the time of the “roadmap”. Perhaps by gouging out the eyes of the world, Sharon believes he can continue the brutal oppression of the Palestinians regardless of his supposed responsibilities. I don’t see the plan’s sponsors preventing him.

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