Remember Beita …. Remember Awarta
My Palestine, April 17, 2011
Beita; the beautiful, steadfast Palestinian village?
Beita; the warm houses, the green fields and the olive trees?
Beita; the villagers working their lands, the children playing in the streets?
Beita; the smell of Taboun bread, the singing of birds with every Palestinian morning?
Beita; the land stolen by Zionist colonists?
Beita; the homes demolished by Israeli occupation militias?
Beita; the hundreds thrown into the dark dungeons of Zion?
Beita; the martyrs murdered in cold blood?
Awarta; the picturesque, steadfast Palestinian village?
Awarta; the ancient arches, the wavy weadows and the olive trees?
Awarta; the villagers harvesting the fields, the youth dancing the dabkeh?
Awarta; the taste of Za’tar and Zeit, the feel of fresh breeze with every Palestinian morning?
Awarta; the land stolen by Zionist colonists?
Awarta; the homes demolished by Israeli occupation militias?
Awarta; the hundreds thrown into the dark dungeons of Zion?
Awarta; the martyrs murdered in cold blood?
The story of Beita is the story of many Palestinian villages, the story of many Palestinians. But Beita is also the story that is seldom told and, although Beita occurs over and over again, it is seldom remembered. The story of Beita begins with the Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine. Hundreds of beautiful Palestinian villages erased off the face of the earth to create a myth of "those who made the desert bloom". Thousands over thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes and their lands to create a myth of "a land without a people for a people without a land". Hundreds of massacres committed against civilian populations by terrorist militias that continue to commit massacres in the name of "self-defence". Beita, the beautiful Palestinian village was to witness death, expulsion, demolition, confiscation and detention so Zionist colonists can have more Palestinian land to occupy, more Palestinian land to colonize.
On 8:30 of the morning of 06.04.1988 a group of Zionist colonists from the Zionist colony of Elon Moreh stopped outside the Palestinian village of Beita. The group consisted of children and their armed guards. One Palestinian resident, Tayseer, tried dissuading the settlers from entering the village and offered to show them an alternative road around the village. The Zionists refused, and by that time, some villagers who were working in the fields had gathered to see what the colonists wanted and why they had come to their village and homes. One armed Zionist guard, Rumain Aldubi, who was a known fanatic and violent colonist and the leader of the Nablus cell of Gush Emunim, ordered the residents of Beita to leave. As Tayseer turned to leave, the guard shot him in the stomach and the leg. And while the villagers were trying to find refuge, he continued shooting around him and killed Mousa Daoud Bani Shamsi (20 years). The colonists then went down to the village and were met by the rest of Beita villagers who had heard the shooting and come to investigate. Some residents of Beita suggested keeping the colonists there until the Israeli occupation forces came and then to hand them the murderers of Mousa. Others were in favour of letting them go. And while the villagers argued, the guard Aldubi began shooting again and killed Hatem Fayez Ahmad Jaber (22 years). According to the residents, one of the settler children, Tirza Porat, tried stopping Aldubi from shooting. She grabbed his arm and told him that what he was doing was terrible. It was then that he shot her. Bani Shamsi’s mother who was present hit Aldubi on the head. When he fell unconscious to the ground, the resident took his gun and that of the other guard and laid them on the ground until the IOF came. In the meantime the residents took care of the Zionist children and protected them. When the Israeli occupation army finally arrived, it was 10:30.
The first thing the Israeli occupation forces did was declare Beita a closed military area, so no one was allowed to leave or enter and no media was allowed into the village. The Israeli occupation forces had decided that Beita was to be blamed for the death of settler girl, although no Palestinian owned a gun and she was killed by one of the settler guards, and that Beita was to be punished. A curfew was imposed and the village school was turned into a detention centre and hundreds of residents were detained from their homes. One Beita resident, Isam Abdel Halim Mohammad, 15 years, was shot dead by the IOF as he fled the village during the detention raid. On that same day, tens of olive trees were uprooted and 5 Palestinian homes were blown up. The IOF told reporters at the time that they couldn’t establish a direct link between the "killing of the settler girl" and the demolished houses, i.e. the houses were chosen randomly to be demolished as a collective punishment of the whole village for a murder the villagers didn’t commit. Another 8 Palestinian houses were blown up the next day even after an Israeli military report found that it was in fact Aldubi’s gun that killed the girl. One of the houses demolished belonged to a family which protected the settler children. The Israeli occupation army report confirmed that the bullet in the girl’s head was from Aldubi’s gun, the same gun that killed the two other Palestinians as well. The report noted also that when the guns were grabbed by the Palestinians, after the settler had killed the Zionist girl and the two Palestinians, their magazines were empty. It also confirmed that the Palestinians had in fact protected the settler children. Demolishing Palestinians homes and detaining Palestinians was not enough, Beita was to be punished more. 6 residents of the village were expelled from occupied Palestine as a further collective punishment for a murder committed by a settler. Even after the release of the Israeli military report, the Zionist entity continued accusing the Palestinians of killing the girl and stealing the guns from the guards. Israeli politicians, settler leaders and others claimed first that the Palestinians grabbed the guns and killed the settler girl and injured another 15. Then they claimed that the settler girl was stoned to death and that the 15 were injured by stones. And despite the military report, they called for the death penalty for "those who killed the girl" and the deportation of all youth in Beita. They also called for revenge and for a brutal action against the Palestinians of Beita. Israeli minister of religious affairs at the time said that Beita doesn’t exist on the map anymore and that a settlement called Tirza Porat should be built in its place. During the funeral of the settler girl Kahane signed autographs. What happened in Beita is only one example of the nature of Zionism and Zionist colonists: they killed innocent civilian Palestinians for the sake of killing Palestinians. They killed a Jewish girl, then blamed the murder of the girl on the Palestinians and incited against them. And in the end it was the Palestinians who were punished for a crime they didn’t commit and punished for being the victims of this Zionist terrorist act.
No Zionist colonist was ever punished for the murder of the 3 Palestinian residents of Beita.
And the story of Beita is the story of Awarta.
Awarta; the beautiful Palestinian village, until Zionist colonists came and destroyed its lands to build their alien colonies.
Awarta; the peaceful Palestinian village, until the Zionists came and stole its land and terrorized its people.
Beita and Awarta are one in pain, in suffering, one is steadfastness. Beita and Awarta are two Palestinian villages that pay the price of crimes committed by Zionists and blamed on Palestinians. Everyone in occupied Palestine, especially those on whose lands illegal colonies are built, knows that it is impossible to enter a Zionist colony and leave without being searched and interrogated, let alone enter and allegedly kill settlers and manage to leave alive. Even Palestinian workers who are given permits to work in some settlements are thoroughly searched, escorted and closely watched during their work. One doesn’t even need to enter a Zionist colony to be interrogated or harassed, just passing by a settlement makes one a possible target of settlement guards. Even when walking in your own land, working your own land, endangers your life if your land is close to a Zionist colony. Palestinians farmers working their land close to Zionist colonies would be attacked, brutally beaten and often shot by Zionist colonists. Palestinian children playing on their family’s land close to Zionist colonies would be attacked and shot by Zionist colonists. Zionist colonists attack villagers, attack cars and buses, attack Palestinian homes, attack farmers and when villagers try and defend themselves they get shot at or arrested by the Israeli occupation forces and the settler militias. Zionist colonists attack Palestinian villages, kill Palestinians and it is always the Palestinians who are punished. The settlers are on the other handed rewarded; their illegal settlements expand and more Palestinian land is confiscated. Itamar, the Zionist colony built on the lands of Awarta, is not different from other Zionist colonies. It is even more secured than some other settlements. It is like a high-security prison with video surveillance system that monitors the area day and night and observes every single movement in the colony and around it and with sensors that alert the guards to any attempt to break into the colony. No one comes close to the settlement without being seen or targeted. One example is the murder of two Palestinians from Awarta almost a year ago. Israeli soldiers guarding Itamar murdered Mohammad Faisal Qawareq (19) and Salah Mohammad Qawareq (19) who were working their lands close to the colony.
And as with Beita, the story of Awarta began long before 11.03.2011. It began with the Zionist occupation and colonization of Palestine. Two-thirds of Awarta lands were confiscated to build the Zionist colony of Itamar, "home" to terrorists who terrorize Palestinian families day and night, murder Palestinian farmers, demolish land, uproot trees and destroy water wells. But on 11.03.2011, a new crime was to be committed against Awarta, one of a large scale. And while most media outlets concentrated and continue to report on the killings in Itamar and blame them, without any evidence, on the Palestinians, the crimes committed daily against Awarta are largely ignored. On Friday, 11.03.2011, five members of a Zionist colonist family were killed in the Zionist colony of Itamar. Motives are unknown, assailant are unknown. Nonetheless, the Zionist entity rushed to blame this on the Palestinians, as if no Israeli would kill another, as if no Israeli would fight with another. And Zionist media and co. rushed to condemn the Palestinians, without evidence, without the "innocent until proven guilty" slogan we keep hearing, for what the terrorist Zionist entity says shall be; and the Zionist entity says that the Palestinians and only the Palestinians shall be blamed for every crime committed under the sun. Immediately, without evidence, without a single clue, Awarta, the Palestinian village on whose land Itamar is built, was invaded by large numbers of Israeli occupation soldiers who set up checkpoints around the village. The village was besieged, all its entrances closed, a curfew was imposed and the area was declared a closed military zone which means no media is allowed into the village. A wide-scale military operation was declared as Israeli military helicopters and drones accompanied the siege. The first of many waves of arrests started in the early hours of Saturday, home to home searches were conducted, accompanied by sniffer dogs, and some 20 Palestinians were detained. During these house raids, residents were aggressively inspected, furniture was destroyed, personal property smashed, cameras confiscated and cash and gold stolen.
On Monday morning, 14.03.2011, under the cover of a continued curfew and siege, Israeli occupation soldiers called for all residents aged 15 to 40 to gather in the yard of the village school, where over 300 people were detained. According to a report of the Imemc News: "all boys and young men were ordered to report to a local school, at which point they were split into two groups of approximately 150 persons each. One group reported that they were held for around 2 hours in a square in the village, followed by 13 hours inside, during which the detainees were not allowed the use of bathroom facilities, were not allowed to receive the food residents took to them, and were not allowed to drink water. During this detention young men were repeatedly beaten for speaking against this treatment, with those doing so taken to an unknown detention facility. Three young men, one a child aged sixteen, who are brothers of a man from Awarta who was murdered by the Israeli military last year, were blindfolded, handcuffed and thrown to the ground, at which point the military personnel began to fire live ammunition on the ground around the bodies. These three persons are still detained. A man, reported to be mentally ill, was attacked by a military dog, used for the search of explosive materials, whilst walking in the street." Houses were raided again and some homes were searched and targeted more than three times. Residents report that "soldiers had been searching for cameras, photos and images of destroyed houses." At the time, some Thai workers employed at Itamar, were rounded up and interrogated. It is worth mentioning here that "reports began to surface that the murdered family had owed an immigrant worker, of Thai nationality, the sum of 10,000 shekels for services rendered, and that upon refusing to pay the money owed, the worker had threatened to murder the family if they did not settle the debt." Nonetheless, it was the Palestinians of Awarta who were being targeted and collectively punished. It was the residents of Awarta who were accused of the killing without any evidence, but just for being Palestinians. One resident, Samer Awwad, who was detained for hours, said that "Israeli interrogators, without any legal warrants or court rulings, are interrogating the residents, and that they start the interrogation by stating "you are accused of killing Israeli citizens in Itamar, where were you that night?" And as siege and curfew continued, medicine and basic food supplies were running short. Ambulances were initially not allowed into Awarta, and later given limited time and access inside the village. In one incident, ambulances were "prevented from accessing some patients including a one-year-old girl suffering an asthma attack". Also, ambulances were not allowed to transfer all sick people to the hospital. While one 75-year-old Awarta resident who was beaten by the Israeli soldiers was allowed to be transported, two elderly women with heart problems were prevented from leaving the village. Meanwhile, Zionist colonists continued their terror attacks on Awarta, and in one incident dozens of masked colonists attacked the village and threw stones and empty bottles at the homes injuring a number of people. They also uprooted over 100 olive trees and destroyed 4 water tankers. And to confiscate what is left of Awarta land, under the excuse of commemorating the slain settler family (again no evidence whatsoever they were killed by Palestinians), the Zionist colonists of Itamar declared that they will expand the colony and create an outpost in the name of the slain settler family. Caravan homes were installed on land privately owned by Palestinians from Awarta and Nablus and settlers were seen driving bulldozers and preparing to set up greenhouses. And after almost a week of curfew and siege, on Wednesday, 16.03.2011, Israeli occupation forces withdrew from Awarta, leaving behind huge damage to homes and property. According to one report: "Senior officers used the four day curfew to train younger soldiers as to tactics used during searches, explicitly instructing them to damage property." Within this time hundreds of Palestinians were detained and at least 40 Awarta residents remain in detention, although no suspects were identified or charged.
But this was not the end of the story, for the Zionist entity had decided from the beginning that the Itamar killings were to be blamed on no one but the Palestinians, with or without evidence. For there is much more political win to make if the Palestinians were portrayed are the "murderers"; more land confiscation, expansion of illegal colonies, mass arrests, house demolitions and, not to be forget, whining to the world about being "an island of peace among a sea of terrorists". And to continue the charade of "investigating the killings" aka collective punishment of Palestinians for something there is no evidence they committed, the Israeli occupation forces raided Awarta again on Tuesday, 22.03.2011, and imposed a new curfew for the 2nd time in a month. A third raid was followed on Tuesday, 29.03.2011, and while 40 Awarta residents were still in detention, around 60 others were taken from their homes, subjected to forced DNA testing and their fingerprints taken. During a fourth raid on Tuesday, 05.04.2011, another 6 residents of Awarta were detained, and on Thursday, 07.04.2011, in a 5th raid, the village was stormed just before midnight, curfew imposed and more than 100 women were detained, many taken by force and some in their 60s, along with tens of men. Residents report that the Israeli occupation army came accompanied by a number of buses in which the women were transported to Huwara military camp. Detaining elderly women is just another proof that the IOF had decided that it is the Palestinians to be framed for the killings and maybe they thought that elderly people would collapse and confess to something they didn’t do. And with the detention of over a 100 women, the Israeli occupation forces maybe hoped to force Palestinians into confessing to something they didn’t commit. Um Adam, an elderly Awarta resident detained together with her 80-year-old husband and 3 of her married daughters and their husbands said: "An interrogator accused me about the murdering of five settlers in Itamar. I answered him that I am a seventy-year-old sick woman, that it would be fanciful to believe that I could have been involved … then they took my fingerprints and released me four hours later in the early morning cold". .. "Umm George said her family home was ransacked five times. During the raids, she said all of the family members were detained and interrogated including she and her husband. Samples for DNA testing were taken and fingerprints were copied. Her sons George and Hakim remain in the custody of Israeli forces, she said. Every time the soldiers raided the house, they turned everything upside down, during the fifth raid, she said she and her teenage daughter were detained. That time, she added, a sound bomb was launched into the home before they were taken away."  On Sunday, 10.04.2011, morning raids resumed in Awarta and with every raid property was destroyed and residents beaten. One Awarta resident, Um Majdi, reports: "They brutally beat my sons; Majdi, who is 21, Amhad, who is 19, and 17-year-old Hakam. They beat them for no reason, they handcuffed my husband and broke everything inside the house; windows, the refrigerator, the washing machine and kitchen appliances. The spilled oil, sugar, salt and flour all together on the floor." On Tuesday, 12.04.2011, three Awarta residents were kidnapped from their apartments in Ramallah. Israeli occupation soldiers surrounded the building where the three live, and forced all residents, including the children, out in the cold from 3 am till 9 am. Two of those kidnapped are brothers, one of whom suffers from kidney failure and requires medical attention. He was staying in Ramallah for treatment sessions and his brother accompanied him. On the same day, in a renewed raid on Awarta, the house of Awwad family was occupied by the IOF and 20 members of the family were detained, including 10 children and a pregnant woman. "One of the women required medical assistance after fainting earlier, but the Israelis prevented an ambulance from reaching the house from 9 a.m. until 11:30 am".
No Palestinian faction claimed responsibility for the killings in Itamar and all Palestinian factions stated they don’t target children. But although no evidence whatsoever was ever presented or any Palestinian was ever charged with the Itamar killings, the Zionist entity blamed the Palestinians from the very beginning, and with the exception of the brief detention of some Thai workers, refused to consider any other suspects or any other reasons for the killing and even put a gag order on the investigation and prohibited the publication of any information on it. And amidst a complete lack of evidence, Awarta has been repeatedly raided since 11.03.2011. and the timeline of repeated raids and mass arrests in Awarta is an example of what many Palestinian villages face whenever Zionist colonists or Israeli occupation militias attack Palestinians. It is always the Palestinians who are blamed, it is always the Palestinians who are punished. Immediately after the killings at Itamar, Netanyahu gave a green light for the construction of 500 more settler homes "in retaliation" and on 12.04.2011 he approved construction plans for building more settler units in Itamar. Since 11.05.2011, some 500 Palestinians from Awarta were kidnapped from their homes and detained by the Israeli occupation forces, including some 200 women and elderly, sick people and children. Today, no less than 71 people remain in detention without charges, including two elderly women, a 15-year-old girl, who was detained with her father and mother and brother, and 5 children.
Remember Beita … Remember when Palestinians were blamed for a crime committed by Zionists in broad daylight. Remember every time Palestinians were blamed for terror actions committed by the Zionists themselves. Despite Palestinian outcry, it is often that the truth comes to light long after the Zionist entity had made enough political win from these crimes committed by Zionists themselves and blamed on the Palestinians. Remember Beita and think of Awarta. For Awarta is not the first Palestinian village to be blamed and punished for a crime without evidence. Awarta will not be the last Palestinian village to be punished and pay the price for a crime without evidence. And it wouldn’t surprise me if false "confessions" were extorted under torture, just so the Zionist entity can continue to blame Palestinians for everything. For the Zionist entity did it before and will do it again because we live in a world that hears, sees and says nothing when Zionists commit crimes against the Palestinian people and against humanity. We live in a world that will readily take the word of the oppressor over that of the oppressed, the word of the occupier over that of the occupied, the word of the killer over that of the victim, the word of a Zionist over that of a Palestinian. The world might believe the lies and myths of the Zionist entity, might for the time being, but we will continue to tell the truth and we will continue to expose the lies of the Zionist entity because no injustice lasts forever and one day justice will prevail.