ICADHAnother Israeli group fighting Palestinian displacement is the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICADH). We went to their ‘key handing over ceremony’ at the end one of their summer rebuilding camps. Speakers included ICADH’s director, Father Christmas look-alike Jeff Halper; Salim Shawamreh who has had his house demolished and rebuilt four times; a spokesperson for the happy owners of spanking new houses; and Bruno a very handsome Finn on behalf of the international construction team. The rebuilding was funded by the Spanish government, which also paid the fares of 42 of the 80 volunteers. The ceremony was interspersed with bouts of music and Dabke dancing, after which everyone retired to Salim’s house for a barbeque-ed West Bank sheep, among the best meat on earth. Our spirits were temporarily lifted by the joyous atmosphere, the kind of moment that makes volunteering worthwhile.

When I was in Tulkarem I had little contact with Israeli peace activists, but in Jerusalem I have a lot and it is very inspiring. Increasingly marginalised in recent years but allowed to do their work, organisations like New Profile, Breaking the Silence and Rabbis for Human Rights are now being harassed and stigmatised. One activist currently facing a prison sentence is Ezra Nawi, who has for years tried to protect Palestinian shepherds from settler attempts to drive them from their land in the South Hebron hills. He was convicted of assaulting a policeman during a house demolition, although a video of the incident on YouTube tells a different story. Last Sunday, we waited outside the Jerusalem district courthouse where Ezra was to be sentenced (sentencing has already been postponed once). He is on record as saying he is being targeted because he is not the typical Israeli peace activist: he is gay, a Mizrahi (Arab speaking Jew, from Iraq), and working class (a plumber), as well as a lifelong defender of Palestinian rights. He says the authorities thought he would be a soft touch. But representatives of the US organisation Jewish Voices for Peace were in court with 20,000 signatures supporting him. So, thanks to the internet, Ezra is not alone. Sentencing was suspended again on Sunday; activists outside said the judge was waiting to see which way the political wind blows. They joked that if Ezra got community service, he could maybe do it in the South Hebron hills…

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