They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

This is a great photo by ActiveStills, posted on this, the last Friday in Ramadan 2012, here.

Activestills in Ar Ram on 17 August 2012

Unusually, this year, because of the way the calendar fell, Ramadan has five Fridays this year — and today is the most important.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense has adopted more lenient rules this year for passage for prayer during Ramadan —  because, the IDF said,  of “the calm” — than in any year since the construction of The Wall [that the Israeli Ministry of Defense constructed for “security” reasons, meaning to separate Palestinians in the West Bank from Jerusalem and from Israel]…

But, these improved rules still say that only Palestinians under 16 years of age, or over 40 years of age, will be permitted to enter Jerusalem on the Fridays in Ramadan to worship.

Everybody else will have to try to apply for a permit — and that is almost impossible to obtain.

So, for the young men shown in this photo, they have no real prospect of entering Jerusalem to pray at Al-Aqsa for anything up to 22 or 23 years from now!

Continue reading They long, they yearn, to pray in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque – on the last Friday in Ramadan

Unmistakably, Qalandia Checkpoint

On Fridays in Ramadan, the month of fasting and spiritual activities, the Israeli military makes special arrangements for Palestinians living on the “other” side of The Wall, who seek and who long to go for prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the major holy sites for Muslims worldwide, which has special significance during the month of Ramadan.

In recent years, because of the pushing and shoving that the arrangements always entail, there have been special entrances created separating women from men before even getting into the checkpoint zone.

Every year the arrangements are slightly different. There are no longer Israeli soldiers on horseback riding into the crowds of Palestinians desperate to get through to Jerusalem. The last use of tear gas fired into the fasting worshippers was two years ago. But they arrangements haven’t come near the point of removing altogether the difficulties, stress, uncertainties and humiliation of having to go through the ordeal of struggling to deal with the crowd and conditions to pass through this military checkpoint into an unknown [the Jerusalem area, cut off by The Wall and Israeli military checkpoints for more than a decade] — all while fasting [including not drinking even water] in the high sun and heat of summer.

Here are some photos published here by the privately-owned Maan News Agency in Bethlehem.  The photos are in a group of shots taken  by Mohamad Torokman /Ammar Awad of Reuters:
Qalandia Checkpoint - special entrance for women on 2nd Friday in Ramadan - Maan images photos by Reuters

Anxiety on women's faces as they reach the point where they must pass through the first row of soldiers at Qalandia Checkpoint on the second Friday in Ramadan 2012 - Maan images photos by Reuters

This second Friday of Ramadan, the Israeli women [veteran observers of the checkpoint scene, and Jewish] from Machsom Watch were there, as were observers from the World Council of Churches’ Eccumenical Accompaniement Program in Palestine + Israel, EAPPI.

But, for the first time, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs was absent from the scene — following the Israeli Government’s recent decision to question their activities, and their staff, as we have previously reported here.

The Israeli campaign is working.

    UPDATE: Meanwhile, Phil Weiss, founder of the Mondoweiss blog, wrote yesterday: “I flew into Ben Guiron from Newark and my flight was mostly Jewish… The shuttle I rode into Jerusalem had ten passengers, mostly American Jews, two binational Israeli American girls, a Christian tourist and an international aid type. This last passenger was dropped at Qalandiya checkpoint to go on to Ramallah. ‘Is this a hospital?’ the orthodox girl in the front row asked. A reminder that the Palestinian reality is sealed off from Israelis, and also that Qalandiya is a vast bureaucratic complex in benign disguise, a border crossing that keeps the subject population Over There. ‘A lot of the Arabs throw rocks, that is why they put this up’, an older Jew who fought in the 48 war explained to his wife as we passed along the wall … I have been through Qalandiya twice in the last day and cannot convey what a dreary oppressive experience this is. Long lines of people made to walk in a wide muddy circle past the neverending re-arranged concrete walls, one of which has Fuck You as an eloquent graffiti. The soldiers stand at huge concrete cubes that the bulldozers have placed just so, a couple-hips’-width apart, and stop us at three points on our way in. Women and men are separated, in a fashion that has ghoulish echoes of the worst moments of Jewish history … While in the Old City, in the Ramadan crowds that inch packed and dangerous toward the mosque, there are always men at the side spraying water on as you walk by. Tossing it from bottles, spraying it with sprayers, to cool you down. A lovely gesture of community, in which I am included…” Phil posted this here


Because the Qalandia Checkpoint still stands …

Because the disgraceful Qalandia Checkpoint still stands — a monstrosity that defies easy description, mostly because of disbelief that anything could be deliberately made so bad — as we enter a new year, we will call attention to it, yet again.

Today, we will leave aside the awfulness of all other passage through Qalandia Checkpoint, and focus just on the issue of pedestrian crossing of Palestinians from the West Bank of those who need to be at work, or who have any other appointment early in the day on the other side.

Here is a video compilation comparing the situation facing of people [yes, human beings] waiting to get through the checkpoint in January 2008, and again on another morning in December 2011, nearly 4 years later. The video — prepared by friends at Machsom Watch, the organization of Israeli women for human rights — was posted on the Mondoweiss blog on 24 December by Adam Horowitz [Co-Editor of] here.

It can also be watched on Youtube here:

Horowitz wrote about it on his post on Mondoweiss, simply saying: “As you watch this video keep in mind that the Qalandia checkpoint is not a border crossing between Israel and the West Bank. Like most Israeli checkpoints in the occupied territories, Qalandia is located squarely in Palestinian territory”…

For Israel, Qalandia Checkpoint — and a stretch of the road further north going from Jerusalem towards Ramallah — is within the boundaries of the “Greater Jerusalem Municipality” — a unilateral composite extension of “Jerusalem” in late June 1967, several weeks after the Israeli military conquest of the area in the June 1967 Six-Day war.

For Palestinians, for the United Nations, and for most European and many other countries, Qalandia Checkpoint is within the West Bank — as defined by the UN-negotiated cease-fire lines of 1949 [later known as the Green Line], which is not quite exactly, but still largely, the same line across which Israeli and Jordanian forces faced each other until 4 June 1967.

As such, according to the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory“, posted here, in English + French, which was developed in response to a request from the United Nations General Assembly after Israel started building The Wall in mid-2002, and which was handed down by the ICJ in the Hague on 9 July 2004:

    “In the light of the material before it, the Court is not convinced that the construction of the wall along the route chosen was the only means to safeguard the interests of Israel against the peril which it has invoked as justification for that construction.[141.] The fact remains that Israel has to face numerous indiscriminate and deadly acts of violence against its civilian population. It has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens. The measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.

    [142.] In conclusion, the Court considers that Israel cannot rely on a right of self-defence (or on a state of necessity in order to preclude the wrongfulness of the construction of the wall resulting from the considerations mentioned in paragraphs 122 and 137 above. The Court accordingly finds that the construction of the wall, and its associated régime, are contrary to international lawContinue reading Because the Qalandia Checkpoint still stands …

Unmistakably, Qalandia Checkpoint

The Israeli military checkpoint at Qalandia, between Jerusalem and Ramallah, in the heat of the day (early) – but why is it closed?

No cars are moving in either direction.

Was there a demonstration on the other side?

It looks neat and clean and orderly, right?  This is deceptive.  This checkpoint processes many tens of thousands of people, cars, huge trucks with huge industrial loads, and more, every single day.  But, at this moment, it is closed…

Photos (apparently taken on 12 July) by Xavier Abu Eid, posted on Facebook:

Qalandia - closed - July 2011

Qalandia - more

Qalandia - closed in both directions

As part of our complete coverage of Qalandia checkpoint…

For the record, and for the archives, here is an extended excerpt from a totally-justified rant against the hell of Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Qalandia checkpoint is, indeed, a shame and a scourge, and can never be denounced enough:

“I still remember the time when this checkpoint wasn’t in existence and our journeys between Jerusalem and Ramallah didn’t take over 10 minutes by car, today is a different reality. Qalandia checkpoint was first established back in 2000 as a simple checkpoint; it consisted of fences and some plastic barriers. Israeli soldiers manned the checkpoint 24 hours a day; they were accompanied with either tanks or military jeeps. No one thought this checkpoint was going to be a permanent checkpoint and that it will last long. There was another checkpoint only five minutes after it by car; people thought Qalandia was just extra provocation that will soon be removed.

As the days passed, Qalandia checkpoint faced upgrades; concrete blocks were added and a lane for pedestrians was added too. People started to lose hope that this checkpoint will be removed any time soon; but instead it will become even larger. Soon after, Qalandia was turned into an official checkpoint, more soldiers were manning it, more concrete blocks were added, and fences and metal bars appeared to designate different lanes everywhere for cars and for pedestrians as well.

Qalandia at those times was the place everyone wanted to avoid, but none could. In winter, Qalandia area would be filled with mud, Pedestrians will get out of Qalandia as if they got out of a mud pool. When it rains, water often rises to high levels causing some cars to break down due to lack of underground sewer system and well paved roads. While in summer, Pedestrians had to wait for hours in the heat, cars stuck in the traffic jam would break down and the smell due to left out garbage itself would be extremely irritating, The Jerusalem municipality was responsible of Qalandia area, but they barely ever do their job. Nevertheless, the Traffic jam at Qalandia was never eased; it was always filled with cars no matter what the time would be…

Continue reading As part of our complete coverage of Qalandia checkpoint…

Large quantities of tear gas used on cars in traffic jam, in populated area, at Qalandia protest Sunday

The tear gas was fired in volleys, and hung in the air even after the white clouds disappeared.

It affected everyone.

Here is one of the photos posted on Facebook by Tamar Fleishman of Machsom [Checkpoint] Watch:

Clouds of tear gas fired at Qalandia protest on 5 June 2011
Tamar Fleishman photo of clouds of tear gas fired at Qalandia on 5 June 2011

Qalandia is a stressful, ugly, terrible cul-de-sac where one road, with one lane in each direction, heading towards or around the Qalandia military checkpoint (which itself is located at the end of an airstrip built during the British-administered Mandate of Palestine, then used as a civilian airport for Palestinian travel during the period of Jordanian rule, until June 1967.) There is no way to adequately describe the stress, tension, frustration, and anxiety that anyone feels passing though Qalandia. You simply never know what will happen. And, it could be bad. That’s on a normal day.

By my own eyewitness estimate, there were not more than 150 protesters — probably half were traditional Palestinian politicians from leftist groups or their own organizations, and a small sprinkling of Hamas, while the rest from the loose coalition of Manara Youth and some Israeli and international activists, who marched down from a gathering point to the Qalandia Checkpoint. I am told that one busload of people from Hebron and another few groups from other areas assembled just to the south of the Qalandia checkpoint and met up with those who left from the Yaffa supermarket. That makes at most, at the very generous most, some 300 demonstrators who were there because they intended to join the protest. [There were at least as many onlookers, and there were a few ad hoc participants who joined in doing what they know best — throwing stones, despite the extensive efforts of the organizers to stop this…]

This is what happened when the original group arrived down at the checkpoint just before noon – video by Omar Robert Hamilton:

And, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported, 120 people were treated for injuries from tear gas, pepper spray, “sewage water” or “skunk spray” and rubber bullets…

Many dozens of others recovered without medical attention.

Continue reading Large quantities of tear gas used on cars in traffic jam, in populated area, at Qalandia protest Sunday

Tiananmen Square Moment – A new form of non-violent protest at Qalandia today: Standing up to the skunk spray machine

A small group of protesters in today’s protest at Qalandia marking the outbreak of the June 1967 war stood up in front of — and blocked — the “skunk spray” or “sewage water” machine that was hosing demonstrators with a revolting and persistently-smelly blue-colored water.

Photo by courtesy of the photographer, Mohamed Jaradat

Fadi Quran, one of coordinators of Manara Youth group protests
since the beginning of 2011 stands (with colleagues) with his hands raised
in front of IDF skunk spray machine


It was the first time the “skunk spray” machine was used at Qalandia.  [It was used on Friday for the first time in a Friday protest against the Wall at Nabi Saleh… It sprayed some protesters, then it went into the center of the village and sprayed the streets and the homes, requiring a massive clean-up campaign.]

And, it was the first time Palestinian protesters in the West Bank used this tactic of non-violent resistance.

They stood there and took it.

They planned for it, they trained for weeks for this, and they did not run away as they were sprayed with the very foul-smelling liquid.

They stood there and allowed themselves to be coated, covered, with this notoriously disgusting stuff.

They blocked the machine from moving up the street, which is bordered with small businesses and small apartment buildings — and schools —  and which cuts through the heavily-populated Qalandia Refugee Camp.

And, they won a small victory on an otherwise confusing and disappointing day: the “skunk spray” machine was ordered to retreat back into the protected military zone at the terrible Qalandia Checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

It was a revolutionary change in the way checkpoint protests have been conducted until today.

Continue reading Tiananmen Square Moment – A new form of non-violent protest at Qalandia today: Standing up to the skunk spray machine

Nakba Day demonstration at Qalandia did not end as planned

It was the first coordinated, simultaneous, united (though under different leaderships) attempt by Palestinian refugees to return to the land of their origin (if not birth, as up to three generations have been now born outside, in the worldwide diaspora  since 1947-48).

In the West Bank, the May 15 Qalandia checkpoint event was planned as non-violent.

The coalition of Manara (Ramallah’s Central Square) + Mar15 youth groups insisted on that, and appealed to the Qalandia youth not to throw stones in order to avoid provoking a forceful IDF response.

Qalandia on a good day – the photo that needs no caption
taken on 4 May by Tamar Fleishman of Machsom Watch:

Qalandia on a good day - photo by Tamar Fleishman

In the hours ahead of the planned 11 am start of the event, IDF troops and Border Police units and special forces arrived at the checkpoint. One group of about 12-15 soldiers wearing olive green uniforms moved out of the staging area and lined up along the entrance on the Jerusalem side of Qalandia as cars were passing by. They all pointed the barrels of their black automatic rifle-sized weapons up to the sky, and in unison they cocked the triggers several times, in a group ritual that was also an intimidating display.

Plenty of IDF troops on the scene at Qalandiya checkpoint were armed with weapons that could only use live bullets — but reports of the use of live ammunition, or of any injuries resulting from live ammunition, remained unconfirmed.

In any case, the stone-throwing started within an hour of the start of the demonstration…

Demonstrators say the tear-gassing began first.

Photos posted by Sawt al-Manara on Facebook
the start of Nakba Day demonstration at Qalandia
Fadi Quran, one of leaders of Manara youth coalition, in black beret:

In the black beret and t-shirt, Fadi Quran, one of leaders of Manara youth coalition


Demonstrators run away from tear gas barrage which affects trapped cars, businesses, and families in their homes along the street

Israeli activist Joseph Dana said at a press briefing on IMEU’s Blogtalk radio on Tuesday afternoon that the Israeli military “immediately opened fire with tear gas”, and noted that “there was a solid hour, or hour-and-a-half, at the start of the demonstration when not a single stone was thrown, yet there were dozens of injuries caused to demonstrators [by the IDF]”…

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR], based in Gaza, reported Monday that “The demonstrators threw stones and empty bottles towards Israeli soldiers, who had been heavily deployed near the checkpoint beginning in the early morning. Israeli forces immediately fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators”…

The truth is that almost nobody had a complete view of everything that happened.

Continue reading Nakba Day demonstration at Qalandia did not end as planned

Hundreds of Palestinians intend to cross Qalandia non-violently in Nakba Day Protest

Hundreds of Palestinians headed to Qalandia for non-violent protest starting at 11am, intend to cross thru checkpoint.

Palestinian protesters intend to cross through Qalandia checkpoint today without permits or military checks, as if it were not there… as if they were free, and not under direct military occupation.

For 1st time in a while, post-reconciliation Hamas is coming out + has joined the call to participate in non-violent Qalandia protest today.

Qalandia is a terrible cul-de-sac under IDF control where many 10s of 1000s of Palestinians must pass daily between Jerusalem and West Bank.

Qalandia, always congested, becomes terrifying parking lot w/o escape when stone-throwing meets tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets.

Palestinian Authority Security has reportedly vowed to block Palestinian protests from Area A to checkpoints…

Israeli solidarity anarchists told Palestinian youth movement organizers they will head to Qalandia from Israeli side of checkpoint today.

As Hamas in West Bank decided to come out + join #Nakba Day protest at Qalandia, Hamas leader in Damascus Khaled Meshal reportedly asked Egyptians for stop of their march across Sinai to Rafah.

Qalandia Checkpoint "closed for a day"

This morning, messages began to arrive about a “demonstration” being held at Qalandia checkpoint, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. Nine people, including a journalist, were reportedly detained.

This evening, the IDF spokespersons office sent around this message:
“Approximately 90 Palestinians attempted on Sunday morning (Dec. 26) to breach the Qalandiya crossing, hurling rocks at security forces on the scene. Six rioters were arrested and taken for questioning by security forces. Nine months ago, four Palestinians who tried to breach the same crossing were arrested when they hurled rocks and threw a firebomb at security forces. During that event, no injuries were reported among IDF forces and the Palestinians were transferred for security questioning. Following the incident, the Central Command decided that the crossing would be closed for a day“.

UPDATE: A first SMS message during the morning suggested that internationals — NOT Palestinians — had been arrested at Qalandia. This was not, however, mentioned in the IDF announcement (shown above). On Monday, the Jerusalem Post reported, quoting Israel Radio, that nine French nationals (including one journalist) were arrested at Qalandia, and will be deported: “The Interior Ministry will deport nine French activists arrested while demonstrating at the Kalandia crossing into Jerusalem on Sunday, Israel Radio reported on Monday“… Then, the JPost incongruously just added the information supplied by the IDF announcement, which mentioned only six persons arrested: “About 90 Palestinians and international activists threw rocks at security forces, and six rioters were arrested and taken for questioning in the incident on Sunday”. This JPost report can be viewed here.

UPDATE TWO: Press TV reported today that “The protesters were rallying on Sunday against the illegal apartheid wall that Israel is building across the occupied West Bank, organizers told AFP … Israeli police claim the arrests were made after protesters tried to cross the Qalandia checkpoint north of East al-Quds (Jerusalem). A spokesman for the French EuroPalestine activist group said nine French citizens were arrested at the demonstration, adding that one Palestinian detained at the protest was later released. Earlier on Saturday, French activist Layli Ben Saffi was detained by the Israeli military during a protest against Israeli settler activity in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron)”. This is reported here.

The Jordan Times picked up a report from Agence France Press which quoted the spokesperson for the Israeli national police [not Border Police, which is part of the Army] saying: ” ‘Our forces today dispersed protesters who were throwing rocks at us and proceeded to arrest nine people, including some foreigners’, Micky Rosenfeld said. ‘The protest took place at the Qalandia checkpoint, north of Jerusalem, and the police made arrests after the activists tried to cross the checkpoint’, he added. A spokesman for the French EuroPalestine activist group said nine French citizens were arrested at the demonstration. A Palestinian detained at the protest was later released, he said On Saturday, another French activist, Layli Ben Saffi, was arrested by the Israeli military during a protest against Israeli settler activity in the West Bank city of Hebron. He was released on Saturday evening. Some 70 members of the EuroPalestine group have spent the last week in the Palestinian territories on an observer mission, a group spokesman said”. 32927