Archive through February 2, 2001
Ansen: Might as well close shop and go delete yourself. With All American and Conrad BACON gone all you got is 2 1/2 Females left here.
Israel's shells force a theatre to retreat
Reportage: Phil Reeves at Beit Jala on the West Bank
25 February 2001
Given what was going on around her, Marina Barham was impressively composed. Yet she was obviously feeling the pain.
She and her colleagues spent years scraping up funds to create a place of their own, a theatre that would serve Palestinians and their children from across the southern half of the West Bank. Now, moving by candlelight in the gloom of a power cut on a cold winter afternoon, she and her company were sadly packing up their brightly patterned costumes and stowing away their props.
The Inad theatre in Beit Jala, an Arab town on the edge of Bethlehem, decided last week that enough was enough. War had made it impossible to keep the community playhouse open. Its sign is pock-marked with shrapnel, the lettering ripped by machine-gun bullets. Their building has been shelled by the Israelis so often that it is in danger of falling down. Giant bites have been taken out of the house next door by one missile after another.
On Thursday – on the same day that a special fund-raising performance of Caryl Churchill's play Far Away was staged in London, specifically to help Inad – the theatre fell dark.
The Palestinian players had been wondering for a while whether it was time to close. The theatre stands on the front line, caught between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli tanks dug in to the hillside opposite. The events of last week provided the answer.
On Wednesday, as the Inad team was packing up, the funeral was under way of one of their close neighbours, an 18-year-old boy called Osama al-Quraby. His house is only a few yards up the hill from the theatre. At around 9pm on the previous evening, it took a direct hit from an Israeli shell while he was inside. He was the second person to be killed in the town by the Israelis since the intifada began. But for the first time, the Israeli armed forces admitted it was a pre-emptive strike – a bombardment unprovoked by Palestinian shooting. The lad was so deeply buried by rubble that it was some hours before anyone in his family realised he had been indoors.
The company felt his death deeply. Osama was a friend, who used to help them sweep up, joking that – though only a labourer – he would one day like to go into acting. But it was also furious about the shells that struck the upper part of its own building – three half-built apartments above their small ground-floor studio – on the same night. "We just feel totally paralysed," said Ms Barham, the theatre's director, her eyes blazing with anger. "We just cannot guarantee the children's safety or our safety any more. The Israelis know what this building is – they know we are here – but still they shoot."
For the past few months, Ms Barham – a 35-year-old Palestinian who studied at Warwick University and the Institute of Education in London – has sought to draw the world's attention to the conflict in her home town. She has fired off e-mails, trying to get an apathetic international community to take notice. The foreign press has been interested; her friends at London's Royal Court Theatre – which has supported Inad for some years – have been supportive. But the politicians have not. "We haven't heard one government – and especially the US – say that what is happening is illegal and that Israel should stop it," she remarked.
Beit Jala is a Christian Arab town strewn over a hillside on Bethlehem's western edge. Its shuttered old stone villas, balconies wrapped in bougainvillea, have a crumbly, colonial-era elegance wholly different from the angry and fermenting squalor of the Gaza Strip or the conflict's West Bank hotspots, such as Hebron or Nablus. Not so long ago, tourists were a regular sight in its narrow streets.
To the north-west stands another hill crowned by a line of modern apartment blocks. This is Gilo, a Jewish settlement built on occupied Arab land but which, in Israeli eyes, is a suburb marking the southern perimeter of Jerusalem. Between the two places, there is a valley, containing two tunnels through which runs the main artery road down into the southern West Bank. About three-quarters of a mile separates the two sides. That, and decades of deep resentment, rooted in the fact that Beit Jala Arabs have not forgotten that Gilo is built on their land.
Fighting has been under way – off and on – since October. Keen to press Israel back to the pre-war borders of June 1967, Palestinian guerrillas have been firing at Gilo from within the town. This has upset some in Beit Jala, who believe their militant – and probably Islamic – brethren should not operate in residential areas. Disproportionate Israeli reprisals have proved their concerns to be justified: Kalashnikov bullets have been met by helicopter and tank shells, blasted into the town by the Israelis with scant regard for the risk to civilians.
The Israelis say they shoot at the source of fire directed at them; the mess they have made of homes in Beit Jala – more than 480 buildings have been damaged – reveals that precision is not high among their priorities. Any suggestion that anyone has been shooting at the Israelis from the upper reaches of the Inad theatre building – and that this is why the Israelis have shelled them – is dismissed as nonsense by Ms Barham. "It's locked," she says. "You can't get in."
You can sometimes hear the night-time battles in downtown Jerusalem. The thud of tank shells is never more unsettling than when it mingles with the banal nocturnal clatter of a modern city, the throb of disco music and bustle of traffic, and is but five miles from your own home.
It is far worse for Ms Barham. When the shelling starts, she takes cover in her Beit Jala house, desperate to know whether her theatre has been hit, but aware that it is too dangerous to venture out to check. The Israeli shells threaten to destroy all the company's hard work, which began in earnest in 1996. The Inad group fought to raise money for the theatre itself, and have since then carried on, squeezing gifts of equipment from the community.
Palestinian children, its principal audience, are traumatised by weeks of violence, and need the relief of entertainment. "We are absolutely determined to continue," said Inad's director. "Israel wants us to stop. So we must go on."
Was I ? At the start it seemed a clear cut human rights violation, then I listened to(or should I say was bombarded with) the Russian perspective. I think we all reached a point of agreement that neither side are angels.
I still think it isn't that important to portray one side or the other as the hero or the bully, the more important issue is whether to become involved and force both parties into a compromise, or to sit back and let them fight it out for themselves.
Either way, what's the point of investing too much emotion in either side?
I feel for the individuals caught up in these crisis, not the political monsters that put them there.
In the end the outcome will depend on who is more important in the overall political picture.(I see Nato are starting to wash their hands of the Albanians. "EU threatens to block aid to Kosovo if Albanian violence continues")
LIFE ACCORDING TO CNN:
U.S. considers lifting non-military
-- From Andrea Koppel, CNN State
BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- In what
would be a major policy change, U.S.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said
Monday that the United States was seriously
considering supporting the lifting of all
non-military U.N. sanctions against Iraq.
The U.N. sanctions program was designed
to force Iraq to destroy its ability to develop
and produce weapons of mass destruction.
Critics say the sanctions failed in their goal but caused the Iraqi people to suffer.
"I have every reason to believe we are able to keep the box as tightly closed as we have
the last 10 years, without receiving the baggage that goes with it," Powell said.
Following three days of talks with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, Powell said the
United States was in the process of shaping new sanctions, which would target Iraq's military
exclusively and not the Iraqi people.
Powell said these ideas resonated throughout the region, where support for sanctions had
The Bush administration has as much as acknowledged that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
has won the propaganda war and succeeded in convincing the Arab world that the sanctions
had caused the Iraqi people to suffer.
Although Powell has attempted to convince people otherwise, he has also shown a
willingness to lift some of the non-military sanctions.
Powell said a lot of the details still need to be worked out and ultimately it would be up to the
United Nations sanction committee to decide what might be exported to Iraq.
Powell said the Bush administration hopes to have its new policy on Iraq ready to roll out
before the Arab League Summit in Amman, Jordan, at the end of March.
Core plank of Bush agenda
The Bush administration has made the tightening of sanctions on Iraq a core plank of its
foreign relations agenda.
But declining support in the Arab world and international opposition has led to a system which
U.S. President George W. Bush compared to Swiss cheese in its effectiveness.
The United States and Great Britain, permanent U.N. Security Council members, strongly
support the economic sanctions imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Sanctions against Iraq are supposed to remain in place until Baghdad complies with demands
to dismantle its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction to the satisfaction of U.N.
But Russia, China and France, also permanent members of the Security Council, favor an
easing or an abolition of sanctions.
Several "humanitarian flights" originating from France, Russia and various Arab nations have
landed in Baghdad during the past year, in breach of the sanctions.
Russia wants the sanctions lifted so it can resume lucrative oil contracts with Baghdad and
have Iraq repay $8 billion it owes Moscow in Soviet-era debt.
Under the 1996 oil-for-food program, all revenue from sales of Iraqi oil is put into an escrow
fund, which is then used to buy humanitarian aid and food for the Iraqi people.
Final decisions on what should be prohibited items for export to Iraq, Powell explained, will
have to be made by the U.N. sanctions committee.
Eggs are currently on the list of banned items because the Iraqis might "do things" with
biological weapons, said Powell.
Currently there are some 1,600 contracts being held up by the United States.
Sanction heavily criticized
The sanction program has been heavily criticized for it humanitarian impact. Irishman Denis
Halliday, the coordinator of the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq, resigned in protest against
them in 1998.
"We are in the process of destroying an entire society," warned Halliday. "It's as simple and
terrifying as that. Five thousand children are dying every month."
Others have criticized the current sanctions for failing in their declared goal.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last September, former U.N.
weapons inspector Richard Butler said, "given the last 22 months, given today's
circumstances of crumbling sanctions, given the fact that he is back in the arms business, it
follows as the night follows the day for me to say what I am saying: These sanctions are not
Powell has described rebuilding sanctions against Iraq in a "more sensible way," as the chief
reason for his Middle East-Persian Gulf trip.
The essence of the so-called smarter sanctions, explained Powell, is to target Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction, not the Iraqi people. That message "resonated" within the region,
according to Powell.
Tightening of questionable exports
He also stressed that modifications in the sanctions must involve tightening of questionable
exports to Iraq from front-line states, neighbors like Jordan and Syria.
"If you go forward, you really have to do something about the front-line states to stop things
that might not be under U.N. controls," he said.
Powell said tight controls on weapons shipments to Iraq will remain in place even as the
burden of economic sanctions on the Iraqi people is eased.
The Bush administration intends to consult with Russia, China, Britain, France and again with
Arab governments, said a senior Bush administration official speaking on condition of
For more stories from CNN.com, click here.
I can't believe we are backing down from our position on Iraq. Someone should remind Bush that we lost American lives in the sh!thole desert they call home... I say we send in our 42 & 46th infantry divisions with close air cover and get that maniak Saddam. Im sick of him smirking. I say lets wipe that smirk off his face ala Noreiga and send him to the Hague for trial or to Fulton Pen. which ever he prefers.
Informer go back to drooling over kim....
American, can you actually read what I wrote, and then comment......you know think about it.
Glad the US were persuaded to back down on Iraq, never mind I'm sure they have other plans for Mr. Hussein.
Now here's a question for you, you redneck-wannabe, how can you support the Palestinians and oppose the lifting of sanctions against the Iraqi people? You support the Palestinians, but not their bed-fellows?
By the way, do you have children? You might understand the idea of solving the problem without taking sides a little better if you did.