MAY 2005

gaza,Authors in the Frontline: Daniel Day-Lewis

Sunday Times, April 2005
Mossa'ab, the interpreter, leads the way, carrying a white Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) flag. Its psychology team, myself and the photographer Tom Craig are in full view of an Israeli command post occupying the top floors of a large mill. It is draped in camouflage netting, as is the house close by. It is to this house that we are heading, across 200 yards of no man's land; the last house left standing in an area once teeming with life.

Civilians have been the main victims of the violence inflicted by both sides in the Middle East conflict. In the Gaza Strip the Israeli army reacts to stone-throwing with bullets. It responds to the suicide bombs and attacks of Palestinian militants by bulldozing houses and olive groves in the search for the perpetrators, to punish their families, and to set up buffer zones to protect Israeli settlements. It bars access to villages, and multiplies checkpoints, cutting Gaza's population off from the outside world. MSF's psychologists are trying to help Palestinian families cope with the stress of living within these confines; visiting them, treating severe trauma and listening to their stories. Their visits are the only sign sometimes that they have not been abandoned.

Israel's tanks and armour-plated bulldozers can come with no warning, often at night. The noise alone, to a people who have been forced to suffer these violations year after year, is enough to freeze the soul. Israeli snipers position themselves on rooftops. Householders are ordered to leave; they haven't even the time to collect pots and pans, papers and clothes before the bulldozers crush the unprotected buildings like dinosaurs trampling on eggs — sometimes first mashing one into another, then covering the remains with a scoop of earth. Those caught in the incursion zone will be fired on. Even those cowering inside their houses may be shot at or shelled through walls, windows and roofs. The white flag carried by humanitarian workers gives little protection; we'll have warning shots fired at us twice before the week is out.

Sometimes a family will not leave an area that is being cleared, believing if they do leave they will lose everything. It is a huge risk to remain. Sometimes a house is left standing, singled out for occupation by Israeli troops. The family is forced to remain as protection for the soldiers. Last year an average of 120 houses were demolished each month, leaving 1,207 homeless every month. In the past four years 28,483 Gazans have been forcibly evicted; over half of Gaza's usable land, mainly comprising citrus-fruit orchards, olive groves and strawberry beds, has been destroyed. Last year, 658 Palestinians were killed in the violence in Gaza, and dozens of Israelis. This ploughing under, house by house, orchard by orchard, reduces community to wasteland, strewn and embedded with a stunted crop of broken glass and nails, books, abandoned possessions. As we weave our way towards the home of Abu Saguer and his family — one of several families we will visit today — we are treading on shattered histories and aspirations.

Abu Saguer's own house is still standing, but its top floor and roof are occupied by Israeli soldiers. His granddaughter Mervat is with us, a sweet, shy seven-year-old with red metal-rimmed glasses, her hair in two neat braids held by flowery bands. She wears bright-red trousers and a denim jacket. Last April her mother heard an Israeli Jeep pull up briefly at the military-access road in front of their house. Some projectile was fired and when Mervat reappeared — she had been playing outside — she was crying and her face was covered in blood. They washed her. Her right eye was crushed. A month later in Gaza an artificial eye was fitted. It was very uncomfortable, so a special recommendation was needed from the Palestinian Ministry of Health to finance a trip to Egypt for one that fitted properly. Mervat needs this eye changed every six months, so the ministry must negotiate with Israel each time for permission to cross the border. Fifty cars are permitted to cross each day; each must carry seven people.

Abu Saguer has five sons and four daughters — "You'll go broke with more than that," he says. He lives near the big checkpoint of Abu Houli in southern Gaza. He wants the photographer, Tom Craig, to take his picture and put it on every wall in England, Germany and Russia. He is 59. At 12 he went out to work, and at 16 he began to build the house he had dreamt of, "slowly, slowly" as a home and as a gathering place for his extended family. He had grown up in a house made of mud in Khan Yunis, which let the water in whenever it rained, and all his pride, hope and generosity of spirit had invested itself in this ambition. He had worked in Israel, like so many here, before the borders were closed to all men aged between 16 and 35.

For over 20 years, Abu Saguer had his own business, selling and transporting bamboo furniture. During the second Gulf war all his merchandise was stolen. After that he relied on his truck for income. He had cultivated 300 square metres of olive trees, pomegranates, palms, guavas and lemons in the fields around his home. After the start of the second intifada (Palestinian uprising) his crops were destroyed by the Israeli army — for "security". A road that services the Israeli settlements of Gush Katif had been built, and during our visit the traffic passes freely backwards and forwards, along the edge of the barren land where his orchards once flourished.

On October 15, 2000, Abu was at home with his wife when Israeli settlers emerged on a shooting spree. He and his family fled to Khan Yunis. After four days he returned. He was hungry. There was no bread, no flour. He killed four pigeons and prepared a fire on which to grill them. The soldiers arrived suddenly, about 20 of them, and entered the house. He followed them upstairs. "Where are you going?" he asked. One smashed his head into a door, breaking his nose. They kicked him down the stairs and out of his house. They kicked half his teeth out and left him with permanent damage to his spine. "If you open your mouth we'll shoot you," they said. They left, returning in a bigger group an hour later, to occupy the top of his house, sealing the stairway with a metal door and razor wire. The family has lived in constant fear ever since. The soldiers urinated and defecated into empty Coke bottles and sandbags, hurling them into his courtyard. They menaced his children with their weapons. After two years of this an officer asked: "Why are you still here?" "It's my house," he replied.

For four years, Abu Saguer has been afraid to go out, afraid to leave his wife and children alone. He is a prisoner in his own home, just as the Palestinians are prisoners within their own borders. The facade of self-government is an absurdity. The Strip, with its 1.48m Palestinians, is a vast internment camp, the borders of which shrink as more and more demolition takes place, and within which the population rises faster than anywhere else in the world. Meanwhile, about 7,000 Israeli settlers live in oases of privileged segregation. This is a state of apartheid. It's taken me less than a week to lose impartiality. In doing so, I may as well be throwing stones at tanks. For as MSF's president, Jean-Hervé Bradol, has said, "The invitation to join one side or the other is accompanied by an obligation to collude with criminal forms of violence."

The late Lieutenant-General Rafael Eitan, the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), once likened the Palestinian people to "drugged cockroaches scurrying in a bottle". In 1980 he told his officers: "We have to do everything to make them so miserable they will leave." He opposed all attempts to afford them autonomy in the occupied territories. Twenty- five years on, it seems to me that his attitude and policy have been applied with great gusto. Every movement here in any of the so-called sensitive areas, which account for a large, ever-increasing proportion of the Strip (borders, settlements, checkpoints), is surveyed and reacted to by a system of watchtowers.These sinister structures cast the shadows of malign authority across the land. On our third day, as we stood at the tattered edge of the refugee camp at Rafah, the forbidding borderland between Gaza and Egypt, bullets bit into the sand a yard and a half from where we stood. It was in this place — was it from the same watchtower? — that Iman el-Hams, a defenceless 13-year-old schoolgirl, had been shot just weeks before. She ran and tried to hide from the pitiless death that came for her. I felt her presence; the sky vibrating with the shallow, fluttering breath of her final terror.

I read this transcript before I left home; the cold facts ran through me like a virus. It is a radio communications exchange by the Israel Defense Forces, Gaza, October 2004. Four days later, crossing into Gaza, I'm still shivering: what the hell is this place we're going to?

Soldier on guard: "We have identified someone on two legs [code for human] 100 metres from the outpost.

Soldier in lookout: "A girl about 10." (By now, soldiers in the outpost are shooting at the girl.)

Soldier in lookout: "She is behind the trench, half a metre away, scared to death. The hits were right next to her, a centimetre away."

Captain R's signalman: "We shot at her, yes, she is apparently hit."

Captain R: "Roger, affirmative. She has just fallen. I and a few other soldiers are moving forward to confirm the kill."

Soldier at lookout: "Hold her down, hold her down. There's no need to kill her."

Captain R (later): "...We carried out the shooting and killed her... I confirmed the kill... [later]... Commanding officer here, anyone moving in the area, even a three-year-old kid, should be killed, over."

A military inquiry decided that the captain had "not acted unethically". He still faces criminal charges. Two soldiers who swore they saw him deliberately shoot her in the head, empty his gun's entire magazine into her inert body, now say they couldn't see if he deliberately aimed or not; another is sticking to his damning testimony.

Every weighty bag of flour for Abu Saguer's household must be broken up and lugged across the 200 yards of wasteland. Everything must be carried. We are smoking apple-flavoured shisha in the courtyard after a lunch his wife made of bread, tomatoes, olive oil, olives and yoghurt, all from the small plot left to him. "Take some puffs so you can write," he says. He speaks with great urgency and my pen lags behind. On November 7, during Ramadan's month of fasting, a three-tiered perimeter of razor wire was laid, encircling his house. This forced him and his family to use the military access road, walking his children past tanks to get to school. It's a much longer and more dangerous route. After a week of this he was shot at from the watchtower. Abu Saguer gathered his wife and children, then they sat down in the road. All afternoon they sat.

"I didn't care if they crushed us there and then. I wanted a resolution," he said. Jeeps passed, nothing happened. After dusk they went in to break their fast. The next day a senior officer approached them in the road.

"What's the problem? Are you on strike? What is it, are you upset?"


"A lot?"

"A lot, a lot, a lot."

"Are you upset with us?"

"I'm upset with the whole lot of you."


"You're forcing my wife and children to walk in front of tanks and bulldozers — I want a donkey and cart."

"Big donkey or small donkey?"

"Big, to pull a cart."

"Impossible." (Abu Saguer, his eyes twinkling, smoke streaming from his nose and mouth, says: "If they'd said yes, I'd have bought a very big donkey to bite his nose, and donkeys that bite are very inexpensive.")

"Give me a gate, then."

"We don't have gates."

"I'll make one."

He makes a gate from two pieces of wood and a wire grill. They ask him to buy a padlock. He buys one. A soldier supervises as he cuts through the bottom tiers of razor wire (they won't allow the top one to be cut) and he installs his little gate. "If the gate is left open and anything happens, we will shoot you."

Sue Mitchell, the MSF psychologist, asks: "What's it like for you to tell this story?"

"I release what I have in my chest," he says. "I can't sleep. I woke this night at 1am. I thought it was sunrise. I woke the kids and told them to go to school. I look around and see that my life has been ruined. I'm like a dry branch in the desert."

Psychologists have been visiting the family since shortly after the occupation of their house began. Each time, they have to apply for access to Israeli authorities; it's usually granted three times out of four. Sue, a 41-year-old Australian, has a wonderfully gentle presence. She quietly steers her patients to and fro between the pain of their memories and a recognition and acknowledgment of their dignity, courage, generosity and good humour in the face of this desperation. She encourages them to voice their fears, tell their stories and, particularly with the children, act out their experiences.

Abu Saguer is a man of great affability. Because of his resilience, his wit, his tenderness with the children, it's easy to think of his survival in heroic terms, but often he has periods of deep depression, disorientation and forgetfulness. "I'm not scared any more, I can't explain it, I just don't care. There's one God, I'll die only one time."

The soldiers have decamped for the moment, but the family is never sure when they will come back. Part of their home has been lost to them. We walk through those rooms that the troops occupy. The curtains chosen with care by Abu Saguer's wife long ago billow inwards, in unsettling contrast to the camouflage netting in front of the window. His gate is visible from here. I imagine him approaching across the broken ground, struggling with a bag of flour, stooping to unlock and open that little gate.

As we leave, Sue calls her base. Each visit must be registered with and approved by the District Civil Liaison (DCL). We hear that a doctor has been shot dead while treating a wounded boy at a crossroads in Rafah that we passed yesterday.

Doctors Without Borders

Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders or MSF) delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health care due to social or geographical isolation.

MSF was founded in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race,religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people supersede respect for national borders. It was the first non-governmental organization to both provide emergency medical assistance and publicly bear witness to the plight of the populations they served. A private, nonprofit organization, MSF is at the forefront of emergency health care as well as care for populations suffering from endemic diseases and neglect. MSF provides primary health care, performs surgery, rehabilitates hospitals and clinics, runs nutrition and sanitation programs, trains local medical personnel, and provides mental health care. Through longer-term programs, MSF treats chronic diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, sleeping sickness, and AIDS; assists with the medical and psychological problems of marginalized populations including street children and ethnic minorities; and brings health care to remote, isolated areas where resources and training are limited.

Entering Gaza for the first time at the Erez checkpoint, we saw some Israeli kids in army uniform — we'd seen them on the way from Jerusalem, hitchhiking or slouching at bus stops, dishevelled, their uniforms accessorised with shades and coloured scarves. Weapons were slung across their backs. They looked like they should have been on the way to school. One girl at Erez wearing eyeliner and lipstick, friendly with the implied complicity of "We're on the same side," said: "I'm laughing all the time — I'm crazy." Most of them appeared indifferent, almost unseeing. We walked through the concrete tunnel separating these two worlds. In the eyes of their bosses, we are a menace because we're witnesses. All humanitarian workers are witnesses. The UN has been on phase-four alert, the highest level before pulling out completely.

They're a little tired of being shot at. We travel south from Erez toward Beit Lahiya through the area "sterilised" during "Days of Penitence". That was Israel's 17-day military offensive in northern Gaza that started on September 29, after a rocket fired by the Islamic militant group Hamas killed two toddlers in the Israeli town of Sederot, a kilometre away on the other side of the border. These home-made rockets have a five-mile range, so Israel sent in 2,000 troops and 200 tanks and armoured bulldozers to set up a 61/2-mile buffer zone and "clear out" suspected militants. Days of Penitence killed 107 Palestinians (at least 20 of them children), left nearly 700 homeless, and caused over $3m in property damage.

Towards the end of it, even Israeli military commanders were urging Ariel Sharon to stop. He wouldn't listen. So there is not a building left standing that hasn't been acned by shells and bullets, many of them with gaping mouths ripped out by the tanks. A vast area has been depopulated and ground into the rubble-strewn desert we find wherever we go. A Bedouin encampment has settled, impossibly, on one of these wastelands. Half a dozen smug-faced camels and a white donkey stand behind the fence waiting for Christ knows what; the air is heavy with their scent. The families have constructed hovels of sheet plastic, branches and jagged pieces of rusting corrugated iron. They look like the last scavenging survivors of doomsday. As we head southwest towards Gaza City, the Mediterranean Sea appears like a mirage, shocking in its beauty: Gaza's western border.

We arrive at the MSF headquarters in Gaza City for the daily logistical meeting. Hiba, a French-Algerian about to complete her mission, has perhaps the most stressful job of all: to daily organise and monitor the movements of each of the six teams working here. She has to seek "co-ordinations", which, in the veiled dialect of occupation, means permission to enter and leave any sensitive area. This she achieves, if possible, through an Israeli DCL area commander in the department of co-ordination. We'd met one of them — just a kid like the others — at Erez. "Oh, Hiba, she takes it all too personally," he'd said. As if the whole thing were a game, with no hard feelings, between consenting adults. Even with this "co-ordination", an MSF team may arrive in the area only to be refused access by the local Israeli officer in charge (or, in some cases, to be shot at). No reason need be given. "Security," they're sometimes told.

Hiba is constantly assessing, reassessing, adapting. At any moment the heavily fortified Israeli checkpoint at Abu Houli, in the centre of the Strip, can be closed, effectively dividing Gaza into two parts. It may remain closed for four, six, 10 hours. It might be a security alert or an officer's whim. Yasser, Sue's Bedouin driver, once waited for three days to cross. We were held up there. A Palestinian officer, identifiable by the size of his belly, had overridden his leaner subordinates and waved us to the front of the queue. A babble of aggressive commands was disgorged from the IDF bunker through new burglar-proof loudspeakers.  Recently a gang of young boys had made a human pyramid and stolen the originals. "Wah, wah, wah," the boxes yell at you from within their razor-wire cocoons.

Hiba rests only when the teams return safely to their bases in Gaza City, or in the south where another MSF apartment allows visits there to continue if the checkpoint is closed.

At the southern MSF base in Abassan I'm awoken on our third day at 4.30am by the call to prayer, then again at 7am by the surprising sound of children in a school playground. In any place, in any language, the sound is unmistakable. Gleeful and contentious. When you're in bed and you don't have to go to school yourself it's delicious. Are they taught here, among other things, that they have no future? The windows on this side of the apartment overlook a playground of pressed dirt with a black-and-white-striped goal of tubular metal at each end. The school, conspicuously unmarked by bullet or shellfire, is a long two-storey building, built in an L-shape along two sides of the pitch. It is painted cream and pistachio and resembles a motel in Arizona. (Later, in the refugee camp at Rafah, we'll drive past one riddled with bullet holes, and meet a grinning 10-year-old who proudly shows us the scars, front and back, where the bullet passed through his neck one day at school.)

After waking, I move to the back of the flat, to the kitchen. At the far side of a hand-tilled field warming itself in the early sunshine stand two pristine houses, white and cream, like miniature palaces. The field is hemmed at one end by a row of olive trees, and at the other by a large cactus.

A middle-aged man and woman in traditional clothes move the drills in unison. The distance between them maintained, gestures identical, they advance, bent at the waist, planting one tiny onion at a time plucked from a metal bowl. If an occupying force were ever in need of an image to advertise the benevolence of their authority, this would be it. I wonder what awaits them. I try but fail to imagine the roar of a diesel engine, the filth of its exhaust, as a bulldozer turns this idyll to dust.

Later, sipping cardamom-flavoured coffee, I look down on a fiercely contested football game. Half the kids have bare feet. There's a teacher on each side, in shirt and tie. One tries a volley which, to shrieks of delight, sails over the wall behind the goal. Two little boys watch, arms around each other. They turn and hug for a long time, then wander off still arm in arm. Sue Mitchell arrives. The co-ordination we needed has come through. After the warning shots fired at us from the watchtower at Tuffah yesterday, we'd thought maybe the Israelis would refuse it.


Yasmine is a grave, self-possessed 11-year-old. She emerged from her coma after a nine-hour operation to remove nails embedded in her skull and brain. An exploding pin mortar had been fired into her house. Her father was hit in the stomach and can no longer work. I've held this type of nail in my hand. They are black, about 1½ in long, sharpened at one end, the tiny metal fins at the other end presumably designed to make them spin and cause deeper penetration. We sifted through a pile of shrapnel at the hospital, all of it removed from victims. These jagged, twisted fragments, some the size of an iPod, were not intended to wound, but to eviscerate and dismember: to obliterate their victims. Yasmine lives a short drive away from Abu Saguer, in a ramshackle enclave with a courtyard shaded by fig trees. Across a sterilised zone lies her cousins' house, but it remains inaccessible (the cousins, including the most withdrawn child Sue Mitchell has ever met, are also her patients).

On the other side of a coil of razor wire, laid within feet of Yasmine's house, runs a sunken lane gouged out of the sand by tanks. When Sue first met her, Yasmine was terrorised, screaming and throwing up during the night. Such symptoms are common. In areas such as this, leaving your house day or night means risking death; staying there is no more secure. Nowhere is safe.

Under Sue's guidance, Yasmine and countless other cousins have prepared a show which, after many last-minute whispered reminders and much giggling, they perform for us. Yasmine is undoubtedly the force behind this. Her power of self-expression is immense. As she recounts the story of her wounding, her voice rides out of her in wave upon wave, full of pleading and admonition. Her crescent eyes burn within a tight mask of suffering; her hands reach out to us palms up, in supplication. At the end the tension in her fierce, lovely face resolves into the shy smile of a performer re-inhabiting her frailer self when the possession has lifted. Then there is a play, with sober, stylised choreography and a chorus of hand jives. A silent little girl whose expression is deadpan, unchanging, play-acts being shot by soldiers during a football game.

This four-year-old has witnessed much of the horror that has befallen the family. She lies obediently on the ground, splayed out and rigid. The mourners, curved in a semicircle around her, pretend to weep and wail, but they're all laughing behind their hands; we laugh too. Then they sing: "Children of the world, they laugh and smile, they go to sleep with music, they wake with music, we sleep with shooting and we wake with shooting. Despite them we will play, despite them we will play, despite them we will laugh, despite them we will sing songs of love."

Yasmine doesn't join the others as they cluster around us to say goodbye. Looking up, we see her leaning on the parapet of the roof, smiling down on us. Silent. Her dark face is golden in the rich, syrupy light of dusk.

Sue Mitchell is one of three psychologists here for MSF. Each will work with about 50 families during their six-month stay. The short-term therapy they offer is invaluable, but in some way it seems like a battlefield dressing with no possibility of evacuation for the injured. These stories are unexceptional. Every room in every humble, makeshift, bullet-ridden dwelling, in each of the labyrinthine streets of the camps, contains a story such as this — of loss and injury and terror. Of humiliation and despair. What separates those of Abu Saguer and Yasmine is that we carry their stories out with us. The others you'll never hear about.


Violence and bloodshed are the backdrop to the lives of the children of Gaza. That they cling to hope and their dignity leaves psychologists such as Sue Mitchell deeply moved. With one group of young patients, she has produced a practical guide to help them and children in other war-torn areas. The children of the Abu Hassan family — 10 of them, aged from five to 13 — were caught in Israel's Days of Penitence offensive. "They'd been shot at, attacked, some of their houses had been demolished, they'd seen people blown up, and had been confined in the smallest room of their house for two weeks by Israeli soldiers," says Mitchell. Faces they drew in the sand showed inverted semicircle mouths and large tears.

"I was feeling my heart small and I was unable to talk. I thought I was going to die," said one. Mitchell was inspired by how they coped with the trauma, and wrote down what they told her. The result is a booklet in the children's own words, How to Manage the Effects of a Military Attack: Tips for Children. "Invent games that make you laugh and help you breathe," says one child. "Look at each other's faces. If you see someone is distressed, talk to them," says another. And there are dreams for the future: "Eat olives — the olive tree is the tree of peace."

"They're delighted by the book," says Mitchell, "but they also underplay their strengths. They say, 'We're not so special; all Palestinian kids know how to do this.'"


In The Sunday Times Magazine's continuing series, renowned writers and artists bring a fresh perspective to the world's trouble spots. The international medical-aid organisation MSF has helped our correspondents reach some of these inhospitable areas. To donate to MSF, visit, or call 0800 200 222

THE THIRD STAGE   Israel and the entire world are fascinated by Sharon's actions in the Gaza Strip. This is the first stage of his plan.   Behind this smoke screen, Sharon is occupied with expanding the big "settlement blocs" in the western part of the West Bank. Their annexation is the second stage of his plan.   But at the same time, Sharon is preparing the third stage: the annexation of the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea shore. Together with the settlement blocs, these constitute 52% of the total West Bank area.   This week, the occupation authorities have informed dozens of inhabitants of Aqaba, north of Nablus, that they have to get out of their village, which has been declared a "close military zone".   Aqaba is a small village bordering on the Jordan valley. The expulsion of the families is the beginning of a big secret operation for widening the valley, in preparation for its eventual annexation to Israel.

Apartheid Wall project will steal more Palestinian land please compare with the map below:

On the invitation of Bil'in village, west of Ramallah, Gush Shalom participated today (Thursday, 28.4.05) in a demonstration against the Separation Fence which is being built on the land of the village. The fence, which almost touches the houses of the village, separates the village from most of its land, on which the ultra-orthodox settlement of Kiryat Sefer will be enlarged even more. This settlement is built wholly on land taken from the adjoining Palestinian villages.   Together with Gush Shalom, "Anarchists Against the Wall", "Ta'ayush" and the Women's Coalition for Peace" took part.   All the participants - about 1000 Palestinians and 200 Israelis - undertook in advance to avoid all violence. However, before the demo could reach the site of the fence, it was savagely attacked by the security forces, which bombarded it with tear gas bombs without the slightest provocation.   Many of the demonstrators succeeded in going around the chain of soldiers, but clashed further on with a second chain and were attacked with tear gas. The first section of the demo, which included the Palestinian minister Fares Kadduri, presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti, Uri Avnery and Knesset members Barakeh, Dahamshe and Sakhalka, got to within 50 meters of the bulldozers, when they were viciously attacked. A tear gas bomb was thrown between the feet of MK Barakeh from a distance of less than a meter. Barakeh was slightly wounded. A soldier pushed Avnery violently and threw him down.   Only then the reason for this violence became clear: for the first time, a special unit of the Prison Service, called Massada, was put into action, using new means of riot control, such as specially painful plastic bullets covered with salt, pepper bombs and more. Several demonstrators, both Israeli and Palestinian, were wounded.   The cameras succeeded in prove a shocking fact: the stones which were thrown at the security forces and served as pretext for their savage behavior, were thrown by undercover members of the special unit disguised as Arabs (called "Arabized"). They mingled with the demonstrators and threw big rocks at the soldiers. When they were exposed, they turned on the nearest demonstrators and arrested four - two Palestinians and two Israelis.   The clashed lasted for four hours, and the demonstrators agreed to withdraw only after they were promised that the arrested men would be released.  

How did Jewish settlements begin? It's a secret

By Aryeh Dayan, Haaretz 29 Mar 2005

A vehement disagreement, which will be settled only in the High Court of Justice, has been going on for a year and a half now between Jerusalem journalist and researcher Gershom Gorenberg and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on the one hand, and the Israel Defense Forces Archive and the supervisors of its activity at the Defense Ministry on the other.

The affair began in September 2003, when Gorenberg applied to the archive with a request to view material that would help him write a new book. Despite its name, the IDF Archive is not a military institution but rather a civil institution that operates through the Defense Ministry and constitutes part of the Israel State Archives.

In addition to IDF documents, the archive also contains civilian documents that have their source at the Bureau of the Minister of Defense. The State Archives are supposed to extend services to every researcher granted the status of "authorized researcher." Gorenberg's request to receive this status was rejected.

Gorenberg, 49, was born in the United States and has been living in Israel for nearly 30 years. In the 1980s he worked at The Jerusalem Post, and since 1990 he has been working at the weekly Jerusalem Report. In 2000 he published "The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount," a book about the political and religious aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over control of the Temple Mount.

In 2003 he began to gather material for his second book, which also deals with a loaded issue: Israel's policy on Jewish settlement in the territories during the first 10 years after the Six-Day War (under the government of the Alignment, the precursor of today's Labor Party).

When he applied to the IDF Archive he heard from its director, Michal Tsur, that he first had to submit an application for the status of authorized researcher. For the committee that discusses such applications to be able to discuss his request, she explained to him, he had to submit a list of the subjects he wished to research.

As the catalogs at the archive are confidential, he would have to submit a list of subjects, the members of the committee would review it and find the documents connected to the subjects, and if they could be revealed, his request would be approved. "Her whole explanation sounded a little strange to me," recalled Gorenberg last week. "Until then I'd never encountered an archive where the researcher was not allowed to see the catalogs."

The list of subjects that Gorenberg prepared for the committee included the following items: minutes of conversations that defense minister Moshe Dayan conducted with Rabbi Moshe Levinger and Hanan Porat in connection with the establishment of the first Jewish settlements in Hebron and Gush Etzion; documents having to do with discussions in Dayan's bureau about allowing Levinger and his friends to remain at the Park Hotel in Hebron after the famous Passover seder eve in 1968; documents having to do with defense minister Shimon Peres' contacts with the heads of Gush Emunim in the Sebastia affair; correspondence between defense minister Dayan and prime minister Golda Meir and minister Yisrael Galili about the formulation of the Alignment election platform in 1973 and the formulation of the "Galili document" (two documents that dealt with the establishment of the city of Yamit in Sinai and Jewish settlement in the Rafah Salient); the report of the military investigation committee that examined the expulsion of Bedouin from the Rafah Salient in 1972 (and the part played by GOC Southern Command Ariel Sharon in the affair); documents in which the judge advocate general Meir Shamgar analyzed the legality of the establishment of the first Jewish settlements in the territories; "legal material on permission for Israeli citizens to stay in the territories" and on "the seizure of lands for purposes of settlement" and "the decisions by the military prosecution in the mater of Jewish settlers who stayed illegally in the territories during the period of the Gush Emunim settlement attempts."

After three months went by without any answer, Gorenberg phoned Tsur and heard from her that his application had been rejected. "It's a matter," she explained, "of material that is too sensitive, especially in today's circumstances."

Gorenberg did not give up, and Tsur suggested that he try another application in which there would be "fewer items of definite security and military significance," and that he should focus on "items of political and diplomatic significance."

In his new list Gorenberg included the following items: The correspondence between Dayan and prime minister Levy Eshkol or other ministers on the matter of his proposal to establish four Israeli cities on the mountain ridge; Shimon Peres' correspondence with Hanan Porat, Pinhas Wallerstein, Yehuda Etzion and Rachel Yanait Ben-Zvi on the subject of a work camp at Ba'al Hatzor / Ein Yabrud / Ofra,; the minutes of a meeting between Dayan and Porat and others from Gush Etzion in the summer of 1967 on the matter of the resettlement of Kfar Etzion; and documents having to do with the negotiations over the Galili document in the summer of 1973.

This application was also rejected, and this time too on the grounds that the requested documents dealt with issues that were "too sensitive."

At this stage Gorenberg asked for the help of ACRI, and contact with the archive was put into the hands of attorney Avner Pinchuk of the association. In a long and detailed letter he sent to Tsur, Pinchuk refuted the right of the IDF Archive to deny access to political and diplomatic documents - which according to the regulations must be declassified 30 years after they were created - even if they are kept in an archive that is run by the defense establishment alongside security documents, which can be kept secret for 50 years.

Attorney Yishai Yudkevitch of the office of the legal advisor to the defense establishment replied that the committee for approving authorized researchers decided not to recognize Gorenberg after it had sorted his requests into a number of categories, and examined the possibility of allowing him to read documents included in each of them.

Most of the requested documents, explained attorney Yudkevitch, were in "Category A," entitled "Material Concerning Borders and Settlement."

"They do not disclose any archival material," wrote Yudkevitch, "within the period of limitations under the regulations that has to do with negotiations or discussions on borders and the planning and establishment of settlements, because of the security and diplomatic sensitivity of the material, until such time as final borders with our neighbors and the negotiators [SIC] are established - this in order not to harm future negotiations."

The material concerning the construction of Yamit, the contacts regarding the formulation of the Galili document and the affair of the expulsion of the Bedouin from the Rafah Salient does have to do with "borders that have already been determined," but releasing it "is liable to damage Israel's foreign relations."

"Category B" consisted of only one of Gorenberg's requests - to examine defense minister Dayan's appointments diary for April 1968. Gorenberg explained in his application that he needed the diary in order to resolve a historical disagreement: Dayan stated in his autobiography that during the week after Passover that year, when the military government in Hebron refrained from evacuating Levinger and his people from the Park Hotel in the city, he was in the hospital due to injuries in a pirate archaeological dig he had carried out. Dayan's political rivals refuted this claim, and said that he had been a full partner to the decision not to evacuate the settlers.

In May 2004, the IDF Archive determined that Dayan's appointments diary for April 1968 could not be released because it concerns "the privacy of the individual."

"With all due respect to the right to privacy," says Gorenberg of this, "it's a matter of the hospitalization of a public figure, who had been injured while breaking the law."

The rest of Gorenberg's requests were sorted into two additional categories. "Category C" consisted of material that "cannot be viewed because it has not been located," and there is also a "Category D," which Gorenberg was invited to view at the archive, consisting of "unclassified material that has already been made public like, for example, the minutes of Knesset debates."

Upon the receipt of this letter, Gorenberg and Pinchuk realized that they had no alternative but to turn to the High Court of Justice.

The petition that Pinchuk framed, and which the court began to deliberate on Sunday, contains quotations from the telephone conversation with archive director Tsur in which she informed Gorenberg of the decision to reject his second application.

"We do not reveal such materials because this whole issue of the settlement in the territories has entered a very problematic area of discussions or contact with the Palestinians," Tsur is cited as having said. "You know very well that the settlers did not enter a vacuum, and this certainly touches upon the contacts with the Palestinians. And you see what's happening in the outside world with the whole story about the fence. These are very delicate subjects, very problematic, and I am certain that you don't want to be the one to open these problems to the outside world."

The prevention of access to documents from such motives, writes Pinchuk in the petition, "is damaging to the market of ideas and to the democratic process, and to all the values and interests that they serve."

The Defense Ministry and the IDF Archive, he continues, "are crudely interfering with historical research and the market of opinions, and blocking open and democratic research discourse and public discourse. On the basis of ridiculous and illegal justifications, they are determining for us, the citizens, what we will know."

The petition also a poses a question regarding the propriety of the demand to obtain the status of authorized researcher as a condition for using the archive. Pinchuk cites a State Controller's Report from five years ago in which it is stated that "action must be taken to prevent a situation in which the defense establishment chooses the historians it prefers, and the archive provides them with the documents as it sees fit, and withholds the material from others."

Such behavior, warned Justice Eliezer Goldberg, "is liable to interfere with historical research and to lead to the writing of `officially approved history.'"

The state controllers' suspicion is justified, writes Pinchuk, because many of those who receive the status of authorized researcher are "graduates of the defense establishment or researchers who are acceptable to it."

In Gorenberg's opinion, the problem is not that the IDF Archive allows access to materials "only to researchers who are considered to be `one of them,' " but rather in that it allows access "only to researchers with a security background."

"A researcher with a security background, even if he has a critical approach, will write history from a security perspective," he explains, "and this is the problem. It is as though all history were written from within the department of military history."

At the Defense Ministry they reject these arguments, saying that "the committee on authorized researchers does not discuss requests with respect to the particular individual, but rather with respect to the particular request. The committee's decision whether to approve material for viewing does not depend on the applicant but rather on the nature of the requested material and is made according to egalitarian criteria."

The Defense Ministry's reply to Gorenberg's specific claims, added ministry spokeswoman Rachel Naidek-Ashkenazi, will be given at the Supreme Court during the deliberations on his petition.

Ashkenazi rejected a request to interview the director of the archive or the chair of the committee to approve authorized researchers, but clarified that Gorenberg's request had been "examined according to procedures