Israeli letter

Michael Pollak mpollak at
Mon May 21 04:15:39 PDT 2001

[Forwarded from a left sociologist in Tel Aviv]

Dear friends,

This is a personal letter, but for obvious reasons, you may forward it to any of your friends or colleagues who might be interested in its contents. It is about one Palestinian shot yesterday, May 15th, one among many, but I still feel obliged to tell this story and draw attention to it.

His name is Issa Souf, 29 years old, father to a two-months old baby, a sports trainer from the village Hares, in the Salfit region in the West Bank. Hares lies on the main road to one of the major urban settlements in the West Bank, Ariel. According to press reports, the whole area is included in the annexation plans of both the present and the former Israeli governments. The village suffers from constant harassment by settlers and soldiers - nightly shootings, uprooting of olive-trees, daily arrests and humiliations. On the other hand, the Salfit area is conspicuous for still clinging to forms of popular protest against the occupation. Issa Souf, together with his brother, Nawaf Souf, coordinated solidarity activities with various Israeli groups - Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom, Peace Now etc., and more recently - with our own Jewish-Arab group, Ta'ayush ('Life in Common', 'conviviencia' in Arabic).

Since November 2000, we have collected donations amounting to some 50,000$ from Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel and organized food convoys to the encircled villages in the Salfit region. Three weeks ago (21.4), army units forcibly tried to stop us from unloading foodstuffs in Kafr Yassouf, a nearby village, and arrested 8 group members. Last Saturday (12.5), we returned to the area with more than 60 cars and some 250 activists, assisted by members of the Women's Coalition for Just Peace and the Committee against House demolitions, and many others who joined us for the first time after having heard about our previous convoy. It was a peaceful, nonviolent action. People welcomed us in the villages. In his speech, Nawaf Souf underlined the importance of joint Jewish-Palestinian nonviolent action against the occupation. We felt confident that we had now demonstrated that in these bleak days, this precious bond between Israelis and Palestinians could be sustained and even gain more legitimacy. During all these months, Issa and his brother Nawaf have been our close, trusted partners in organizing the solidarity convoys. Our whole project, tenuous and dangerous as it is, depended on their skill and commitment. I knew about Israel's undeclared policy of 'liquidations' in the Occupied Territories. I feared for Nawaf's life, and I still do. Yesterday morning (15.5), his brother Issa was shot from close range by Israeli soldiers.

Issa's brother, who worked in a carpentry near the entrance to Hares, called him on the phone to tell him that soldiers were entering the village and that he should gather all the children in the neighborhood and take them home. He left the house. He was with his little nephew. There was a short verbal exchange with the soldiers. Then Issa was shot in the chest from close range. The bullet pierced his lung and cut his spinal cord. As villagers tried to approach the wounded Issa to help him, soldiers shot shock-grenades and pointed M-16 guns at their heads. Someone called Nawaf, who contacted the authorities begging them to allow an ambulance through to evacuate Issa. They finally allowed Issa to be taken to Refidiya hospital at Nablus in critical condition. Issa is now out of danger. He is permanently paralyzed in the lower part of his body. He will require neurological rehabilitation.

I spoke with Nawaf, his brother, this afternoon. Nawaf said: "I feel like a person walking in a zoo. Someone has let the wild animals loose. At first I trust the guards, I believe they will do something, but then I realize that they are doing nothing. We are in Sharon's hands and no one in the world is protesting effectively."

We shall do our best here, in Israel, to stop the barbarization of our society. We shall cling to our Palestinian friends in the Occupied Territories. We will either have a common future, as equals, or no future at all. This evening 300 of us protested outside the ministry of defense in Tel Aviv. There are also perhaps several things you could do from abroad.

-- Write letters of protest to the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon (++972-2-6705415 or 5664838), the defense minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (++972-3-6976218 or 6976717), the minister of internal security, Uzi Landau (++972-2-5811832), or the local Israeli embassy -- Pass this letter on to your friends, to human rights organization and to political groups -- Collect money for the solidarity convoys (donations can be deposited to Taayush, bank account number 396608, Bank HaPoalim Ramat Aviv branch [606]; from overseas Bank HaPoalim, swift code POALILITA (Ramat Aviv branch), 12-606-396608; you can also send checks with an explanatory note made out to Taayush, to Gadi Algazi, Dept. of History, Tel Aviv University 69978, Ramat Aviv, Israel).

Yours Gadi Algazi, Tel Aviv

forwarded by Ronen Shamir Dept. of Sociology Tel-Aviv University Tel-Aviv 69978 Israel ph 972 3 6409236 fax 972 3 6409215

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