Palestinian Islamists, Christian activists make last-ditch effort to save Orphans from Israeli state terror

From Khalid Amayreh in Hebron
24 April, 2008

Palestinian leaders and Christian peace activists as well as representatives of
human rights organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories on
Thursday made an impassioned appeal to “all men and women of conscience all
over the world” to help stop Israeli army plans to close down and take over
several orphanages and boarding schools sheltering thousands of orphans and
impoverished students. Many of the orphans’ parents had been killed by the
Israeli army and paramilitary Jewish terrorists, also known as “settlers.”

The appeal was made during a press conference at the main Girl Orphanage in
downtown Hebron. The Israeli army has repeatedly raided the orphanages,
boarding schools and affiliated institutions, vandalizing property, seizing
food, cloths and shoes and confiscating several buses and cars.

The Israeli army accuses the Islamic Charitable Society, the largest and oldest
in occupied Palestine, of teaching school children “radical ideas.”

However, the Charity lawyer Muhammed Farrah dismisses the charges as “a big
canard and a blatant lie.”

“We have challenged them to produce a shred of evidence proving their claims.
And so far they have failed to prove any of their allegations.”

Art Arbor, a Christian Peace-maker Team (CPT) member spoke at the beginning of
the press conference, saying he was pretty sure that Israeli charges against
the Hebron Charity were “baseless.”

“As a former headmaster in Canada, I can say I have seen here some of the
finest students and teachers anywhere, I have seen good teachers and good
students fully engaged. Last week I attended an English class where teachers
and students were having fun, I saw teachers who produce students who will act
to make the world a better place.

“But all this is threatened now. And I want to tell you that what the Israeli
army is doing is not an assault on terror but an assault on innocent people who
take care of each other.

“ In fact, it is the IDF that is engaging in terror and we are here to try to
stop it.”

Taking the floor after Arbor was Nisreen Shawar, a local English teacher. She
accused the Israeli state of waging “an all-out vindictive onslaught of smear,
hate and vengeance against innocent Palestinians whose sole crime is their
insistence on living and surviving.”

“We have been wrongfully accused of being terrorists and promoting terror. We
are not terrorists, and we don’t teach terror. We are actually doing what
school teachers all over the world do, namely making children better people for
a better future. We teach kids to be kind, to tell the truth, to be mentally
alert, physical sound and morally straight. We teach kids the same subjects
taught anywhere in the world.”

Shawar compared the “terror canard against the Palestinians with the blood
libel against Jews in Europe during the Middle ages.”

“The only difference is that these canards are now made by Jews in order to
justify Israel’s slow-motion genocide against our people.”

Nago Humbert, Head of the Swiss Medecins du Mond Agency, lashed out at the
immense brutality and savagery being inflicted on the Palestinian people by the
Israeli state and army.

“Closure of schools, storming orphanages in the dead of night, destroying
bakeries, confiscating food and clothes, throwing orphan kids onto the
street…What is happening here? What is the lasting image Israel is going to
leave in the minds of these kids when they grow up?”

Humbert, who spoke in French, said he couldn’t really understand what the
Israeli army’s ultimate goal by acting in this manner.”

“How can we teach Palestinian children non-violence when Israel is doing to
them all this, when Israeli soldiers are throwing kids from their orphanages
onto the streets. Israel is destroying all our efforts.”

Paul Rehm, an American Christian peace activist from New York described the
callousness inherent in the Israeli army’s assault on Hebron’s orphanages and
other charitable institutions.

“How can we really relate to these callous acts, confiscating school buses,
raiding orphanages and terrorizing innocent children?,”

Rehm quoted Martin Niemoller, the famous Nazi-era German priest, who lamented
the German people’s silence in the face of the enormous atrocities the Third
Reich committed in the course of the Second World War.

“When the Nazis came for the Communists, I remained silent; after all I was not
a Communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; after
all I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did
not speak out; after all I was not a social democrat. When they came for the
trade unionists, I didn’t speak out; after all I was not a trade unionist. When
they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.”

Two representatives from President Jimmy “Carter’s Center” in Ramallah also
showed up at the press conference and one of them delivered a statement from
the former US President.

The statement urged the Israeli government to rescind military orders to shut
down and expropriate school buildings, orphanages and supporting businesses.

Far from being fazed by nonviolent protests against its draconian measures in
Hebron, the Israeli army last week stormed a bakery owned by the Islamic
Charitable Society, seizing ovens and other equipments used to provide bread
for thousands of orphans and needy students.

The occupation army also raided and weld-sealed a cloth-making facility
employing grown-up orphan girls. Israeli soldiers reportedly warned the girls
that they would be jailed for up to six years if they didn’t heed orders to
leave the small cloth factory.

Palestinian leaders in Hebron have accused the Israeli state of “resorting to a
dirty game whereby all they have to do to wreck a given Palestinian institution
is to invoke the name of Hamas.”

“It is enough to claim that a given institution is associated with Hamas to
destroy that institution. This is very much like Nazi Germany behaved toward
political opponents prior to the Second World War,” said Muhammed Hirbawi, a
Hebron civic leader.

Hirbawi said the Israeli occupation army was acting as a policeman, a
plaintiff, a General Prosecutor and a judge combined.

“This shows that non-Jews can’t really obtain justice under the Israeli justice
system. This is why the Palestinians need a third party to protect them from
Israel’s wanton criminality.”

The Israeli army has not given really convincing reasons for its brutal
onslaught against the Hebron charities. However, Israeli officials are saying
privately at least that Israel is doing what the Western-backed Palestinian
Authority wants.

Last month, an Israeli government official was quoted by the Israeli radio as
saying that “what we are doing in Hebron is in the interest of (PA Chairman
Mahmoud) Abbas.”

The PA denies any connivance with Israel against the Hebron charities.



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