THURSDAY 30 JANUARY 2003 Well, I've been in this country exactly two weeks tonight.

First, I should apologise to anyone who reads this email expecting to here about my heroic adventures. While the ISM and this part of the world is full of brave people who are doing extraordinary things everyday, I'm not one of them.

I am, however, the guy back at headquarters who keeps track of everything that's going on with the activists who are out in the field so I do, in a way have a very good view of everything that's going on whereever the ISM is situated.

From tonight onwards I intend to update this journal regularly but for tonight I'll just give you a condensed version of the main issues that I've been concerned with over the last two weeks.

First, I'll turn to the most dramatic issue. Yesterday, a two activists (Colin from the UK and Satoshi from Japan) in the Yanoon area, near Nablus were told by the locals that heavily armed settlers from the Itamar Settlement had moved ont their land with 2 tractors in an attampt to seize the land.

On previous occasions when Palestinian farmers had tried to contest such invasions they had been imprisoned for trespassing by the army (if they were lucky) or dealt with by the settlers themselves so there was not possibility of them going to the farm so the activists went up to the farm to watch what was going on

As soon as they arrived two of the settlers approached them. At this point Colin phoned me and we stayed in contact until...

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

At first the settlers demanded to know what they were doing there and to see their passports. I told Colin not to play their game but to be cool and to demand to know their names (I'm always very brave when I'm not the one who's in danger).

The altercation went on for a while as the settlers kept trying to intimidate the two activists and the activists made out that there was someone extremely important on the other end of the line.

Then the settlers got on their telephone while I got on the phone to the BBC (figuring that the best protection these guys could have at this stage was to have some media attentinn - looking back now I'm not totally sure this was the best thing I could have done but I never said I had any training or experience for this kind of thing; I am, however, all they've got and I felt I had to do something and that was the only thing that came to mind - after all my job was ISM Media Coordinator). While Colin kept me up to date on what was happening I told the BBC that a British national was in a confrontation with settlers trying to seize a Palestinian farm and, if they wanted to they, could do a live interview.

The snotty commissar (real Eton College type) I spoke to told me that it was difficult for them to fit the story in in because the main story now was the elections. I said surely it would be worth checking it out after all it might turn ugly and then...

Mr. Parker-Bowles then told me that they had their own editorial policy on such matters and I couldn't railroad them into covering anything.

I said: "Look I'm not railroading you, I'm just offering a phone number in case you want to cover the story of a British national who might be in danger, do you want it or not."

Maybe I said it a bit aggressively and didn't use precisely that language because he dropped the high and mighty routine and took the number a bit sheepishly and said he'd check it out. Tosser!

Meanwhile, things at the farm had gone from fairly bad to industrial strength terrifying.

Colin told me that three more settlers had arrived with automatic weapons and he and Satoshi had decided to walk back to Yanoon.

He talked to me as he went and said how they were gaining on him. I could hear them over his shoulder abusing him in Hebrew and then he told me they overtaken him.

"They're trying to take my phone!" were the last words I heard him say.

Then I heard shouting and scuffling sonnds.

Then nothing.

What was I to do?

I'll go to bed now but will tell you more tomorrow.

For anyone else who is also about to go to bed: spare a thought for the ISM activists in Rafah, at the southern extremity of the Gaza Strip.

Last night the Israeli army attacked the Rafah's water supply and destoyed the 2 largest of it's six wells with bulldozers, cutting the town's water supply by half. Tonight the four activists (2 Ameicans, 1 Briton and a Swede) are protecting the remaining wells with their bodies by standing by them as human shields. They are doing so as the request of the Rafah's Water Municipality Director who expects that the occupying army might attack the remaining wells.

This follows a successful action yesterday when they enabled municipality workers to fix a water mains that had been damaged by the Israelis. For six weeks a nearby Israeli tank had fired its machine gun whenever the workers started to fix it so that an entire street was being flooded.

By standing among the workers and between them and the tank the 7 activists were able to prevent the tank from interfering with the work so that the damaged pipe has now been fixed.

Friday 31 January 2003

Before I go on with the story of Colin and Satoshi I will tell you a joke I heard today.

Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright and Yasser Arafat all went to Hell but before they entered the Devil said they were granted one request each.

Madeleine Albright went first and said she wanted to phone home and check how things were going in America and the State Department in particular so the Devil gave her his mobile and she talked to all her friends there and said her goodbyes and then gave him back the phone.

`That was half an hour,` said the Devil, `and it will cost you $500 000.`

`$500 000!` she said.

`Sorry,` said the Devil this is Hell. Long distance calls are expensive here.`

So she payed the money and went into Hell.

When Bill Clinton's turn came he also asked to phone home so the Devil gave him his mobile.

His phone call lasted much longer because he had more friends than Madeleine and he wanted to say goodbye to all the women in his life (except Hillary). When he finished the Devil charged him a million dollars for a two hour phone call. <

When Yasser Arafat`s turn came he also chose to phone home to check how bad things were and they were so bad that he also took two hours.

`That will be one dollar,` said the Devil.

`Why so little when the others were charged so much?` Arafat asked.

`It was a local call,` replied the Devil.

OK, I`ll get on with the story now.

After the phone went dead I got really scared as I imagined what was happening to Colin and Satoshi. I also had this terrible feeling that I was responsible because I had told them to be cool at the beginning of the confrontation rather than telling them just to walk away. It wasn't my place to tell them anything. I`m just the Media Coordinator."

Anyhow, I immediately got onto the British Consulate. I knew the Vice Consul from a previous conversation we'd had when I had asked whether the foreign office intended to make a formal protest to the Israeli government over the case of a 65 year old Welsh woman who was assaulted by Israeli soldiers and threatened with rape. I intend to write more about this later but I really think he must have come from the same sperm bank as the wanker at the BBC because he spoke with the same snotty accent and was a complete dickhead. His response had been that the Foreign Office has a travel advisory not to travel to the West Bank and therefore takes no responsibilty for those who ignore this advice.

I told him what had happened and asked him to get in touch with the Israeli Police to demand that they rescue the two activists.

Incredibly, he came back with the same response about them having ignored the travel warning and therefore not being the responsibility of the Consulate.

By now I was quite anxious as to Colin and Satoshi's fate so I gave him a piece of my mind.

Without going into the exact details of what I said, I reminded him that if things turned really ugly and the story got out that Vice Consul Woodcock (sorry, but that`s really his name) stuck to the rules and did nothing to help a British national who had been kidnapped by settlers while undertaking humanitarian work, this day might well turn out to have been a crossroads in his career.

When I had said my piece, he went dead silent for about ten seconds then said that he would do what he could but using that kind of language was not going to help anyone.

I then thanked him for his cooperation and asked him to please keep me informed about what progress he made.

I then phoned the Japanese consulate who was much more helpful and immediately got onto the Army.

Meanwhile, the settlers had forced Colin and Satoshi to remove their shoes and socks and jackets and then kneel on the ground while they took their wallets, passports and Satoshi`s camera.

Then they made them lie face down while they kicked them and walked on them and trod on their fingers. Whenever, either of them tried to look to the left or right they were kicked.

After a while (neither of them can accurately judge how long their ordeal went on) they were stood up and marched towards the fence between the settlement and the farm. When ehey arrived at the settlement they were forced to lie down again while one of the settlers began to cut the fence wire. It seems that this was because they wanted to frame the activists for trespassing on settler property.

What they intended to do next, only they know but Palestinians have been killed for much less and the heavist sentence ever passed down on a settler was a suspended sentence (I`m not sure what the term was) for kicking a Palestinian boy to death.

Back at the office, I had managed to get in touch with XXXXX (I cannot mention his name) who was a Palestinian from Yanoon who had been working with Colin and Satoshi. Everyone in the community was very concerned and were looking toward the farm but dared not go any closer for fear of the settlers.

XXXXX told me that an Army jeep had been seen heading towards the farm and that he was hopeful. Then he said that he could see two figures walking down the hill towards him but that they were limping.

I asked whether he thought they were Colin and Satoshi.

`Inshallah,` he replied. (God willing.)

Well, it eventually turned out to be them.

Colin said that just as the settlers were cutting the wire one of their phones rang and then they stopped cutting the wire and stopped kicking them.

A few minutes later the Army arrived. They told the activists that the farm was settler land and they shouldn't have been there anyhow but were otherwise polite and returned their property, except for Satoshi`s camera which had been smashed, before setting them free.

Despite their bruises, both Colin and Satoshi were in good spirits since they both felt they had been delivered from the brink of death. While I talked to them the Army returned to take them to the police station at Arael Settlement near Nablus to get their statements. So we hung up and I called all the other ISMers in Nablus and Yanoon to tell them the good news.

When I told the woman who works at the IWPS (International Woman`s Peace S... (can`t remember)) she said she lived near Arael Settlement and so could pick them up and take them back from Yanoon.

Later Colin phoned me from the Police Station. The police had tried to persuade them both to sign statement`s in Hebrew but both had refused. He told me that they had finished with him and he was just waiting on Satoshi to finish before leaving. I gave him the number for the IWPS and began writing up a report.

I was very very relieved.

Unfortunately, I got a call from the IWPS saying that they had waited at the Arael junction where the police said they would drop them off but the police had not come. They made several calls to the station but kept getting contradictory answers until someone who spoke Hebrew phoned up and was told that both men were being charged with trespassing on settler property and were being deported.

What a long entry! I`ll go to bed now and tell you the rest of the story tomorrow night.

It`s dead quiet outside. Even though there`s been a curfew on since 5pm, Beit Sahour is a pretty calm place and only one man has been shot here since the beginning of the Intifada for violating it. Accordingly, there`s always a few braver souls out and about either walking or driving with their headlights off.

For some reason, tonight the soldiers have been firing at the cars so everyone is now staying at home. This is very unusual since normally the worst things the soldiers get up to is driving around in their jeeps confiscating identity cards and making the Palestinians stand by the side of the road until they return them a few hours later. On a couple of occasions they have driven around in the small hours of the morning using their loudspeakers to broadcast their singing of Russion songs and witty remarks such as `All Arabs are motherfuckers!` but that has generally been as bad as it`s gotten.

In Ramalla curfews are imposed with tanks and even these are pelted with stones and have steel pipes rammed between their tracks before they manage to shut the city down.

Sunday 2 February 2002

I`m very tired tonight so this will have to be short.

Yesterday, I had two crises to deal with. In the morning I got a call from ISMers under fire in Rafah, at the southern end of the Gaza Strip, that they were under fire for trying to retrieve a dead body from an olive grove near the Egyptian border.

The mobile phone coverage was really bad there so all I got was this American girl shoutiing: `We`re disobeying an order to fall back and their shooting at us` and this rattle of maching-gun fire before the line went dead.

I kept trying the number again but with not luck. (This kind of thing really annoys me because they never told me what they intended to do until I got the call.)

Anyhow, I got onto the consulates again and told them: `You`ve got 3 American/British/Japanese [I didn`t have a clue what the nationality of these particular people were but I had to do something, right?] peace activists pinned down by Israeli soldiers near Rafah! You`ve got to do something!`

The US and Japanese consulates were very efficient and got onto the Army but the British were total knobs again. It wasn`t Woodcock this time but some other commissar who prattled the same `travel advisory` line.

This time I was a bit easier on him and just noted that it was in nobody's interested that British nationals get killed doing humanitarian work in the Gaza Strip and I`m sure he understood the necessity of contacting the Army over this. He took the hint and got to work.

I also got onto some lefty Israeli`s about it who contacted the Israeli media which also gives us some protection.

In the end it turned out that a tank was firing its machine-gun at the ground in front of them while the soldiers did some mysterious stuff around the body behind a smoke screen and a bulldozer destroyed the entire olive grove (a spiteful act with no purpose other than to increase the suffering of ordinary people but common enough these days.

When they had done whatever they were doing behind the smokescreen the tank pulled back and the activist were able to retrieve the body without any interference.

That crisis had just ended when I got another call from Colin. To shorten this entry I`ll just say that Colin and Satoshi were not deported but dumped by the police by the side of a settler road in the middle of the West Bank. Eventually, they managed to get to Tel Aviv and return to work in Yanoon the next day.

Anyway, yesterday a group of 5 Israeli peace activists visited Yanoon on a fact-finding mission. They arranged with the Army to go back to the farm with Colin and Satoshi and Army escort to look for Colin's mobile and Satoshi`s camera (which was not smashed but merely lost).

When they got there the settlers came down and their leader said to one of the Israelis: `You`re here to put us in jail. We're going to kill you!`

Then he swung his rifle butt into his face breaking his nose.

The Army did nothing but watch. The settler`s name is Victor Amery and he is the leader of the Itamar Settlement. He`s been terrorising the Palestinians of the surrounding villages and anyone who gets in his way for years but has never been arrested, let alone gone to jail. Apparently, he is a very important person and has friends in the Israeli cabinet.

Anyway, I`ve just been on the phone to Colin and it seems that Mr. Amery over-reached himself by assaulting a Jew with so many witnesses around and is now under arrest. Today Colin and Satoshi were summoned to the police station at Arael Settlement ot give a statement but were kept waiting at a checkpoint fof 2 hours before the car came to take them.

Then they were asked to identify their assailants from some mug shots. They were given a lot of photos to look at but couldn't identify him. A couple of photo's might have been him from a few years ago before he grew his bushy settler beard but it was impossible to tell.

Throughout the interogation the police kept on referring to the property where the assaults took place as `Mr. Amery`s farm`.

At five o`clock the police station closed and they asked where their lift back to the checkpoint was and were told by `this snotty bitch` (Colin's words) that the police didn't have any transport available for them.

Luckily, David, the Isreali guy who was assaulted, was also there to give a statement and gave them a lift to the IWPS headquarters nearby.

Although I have never even seen Colin or most of the people I talk to on the phone, I feel like I`ve built a strong bond with them because I talk to them so much and because whenever something goes wrong they call me up. I might be only the Media Coordinator here but for some reason they have come to believe they can rely on me to get them out of trouble and I sure as hell don`t want to let them down.

I am getting to know the newer recruits though and a few of the older ones as they pass through here on their way to the `front`. Most of the time they spend the night sleeping here so I get to know them quite well before they move on.

So far I've had one Swedish anarchist, 3 Catalan aeparatists who are also communists, 1 American who described himself as a `cooperative revolutionary`, 2 Americans dissidents of no particular political persuasion and an Irish girl who is also an unaligned dissident. Tonight I have a Dane who is a social-democrat who is going to Jenin tomorrow.

Tomorrow, an Israeli Jew, who brought food into the Muqata (Yasser Arafat`s) headquarter) has been summoned to Tel Aviv for a police interrogation. She has been a big help to me in this job and she is quite upset because she is eight months pregnant and married to a Palestinian who lives in Nablus and so cannot accompany her to Tel Aviv. This is another woman who I feel quite close to although I have never met her.

Monday 3 February 2003
Information Warfare

Many military historians have noted that when the Agrarian Age gave way to the Industrial Age the nature of armed conflict also changed so that a state`s military might was no longer a factor of the amount of arable land it controlled but rather of its industrial capacity.

If it is true that mankind is moving from an industrial to a post-industrial `Information Age` it also seems possible that the nature of armed conflict should reflect this change. After all the latest breakthroughs in military technology over the past 2 decades: the Tomohawk Missile, the Global Positioning System, the Strategic Defence Initiative and Stealth Technology all involve the ability to either the ability to rapidly access and process information or to deny it to one's enemy.

And if this generalisation applies to armed conflict, it should also apply to non-violent conflict as well. Just over two months ago hackers broke into the ISM's email database and deleted all the email addresses of those to whom we send our reports. Since one of the main roles of the ISM is to monitor the activities of the Israeli Army in the Occupied Territories and to publicise them and the actions of the Palestinians and ISM activists in resisting the Occupation, this seriously impeded the ISM in its work.

Though we have been steadily rebuilding our email list (as a safeguard against spamming we are only allowed to add a certain number of emails to our list each day) we have still not caught up, let alone kept up with all the new requests to be added to the list.

Since I arrived we have had several emails sent out by the ISM to those on the email list calling for a Jihad against the West. Since the first spate of emails we have improved our security so that all emails sent out to our main list must have the approval of certain moderators. This has solved the problem but whoever it is who wants to discredit us keeps trying to get the emails through. One morning I had to delete 14 emails written in my name on such a theme.

Our supporters have tried to trace the hacker but have failed to locate him. They only know that he is very sophisticated and covers his tracks very well.

This leads me to a curious phone call I received last Friday from a journalist from America who said he wanted to interview me. He said he was a freelance journalist who worked for lefty US publications like the Village Voice and Indymedia and that he got my name from the Alternative Information Centre in East Jerusalem (I've never told them my name).

I told him that I had only arrived in the country 2 weeks ago and was only just learning what was going on. Moreover, the work I did was mainly liaison with the media and the other activists. However, I could easily put him in touch with some very experienced activists who had been in the country more than six months and were right where the action was happening. These activists I assured him could provide him with a much better interview than anything I could come up with.

He seemed a bit disconcerted by my reply and then insisted that regardless, it was me he was interested in since all the information came through me and asked me when I would be free to come to Jerusalem for an interview. I said I was free anytime so he said he`d get in touch to give me a time for an interview either Monday or Tuesday.

I still had a bad feeling about him after the call so I phoned the Alternative Media Centre and they said they didn't recall him. I also did a Google search for a journalist with his name but found nothing.

The guy who did this job before me was actually nabbed by police when he went to visit a friend in West Jerusalem. They monitored his phone calls and then snatched him from the street and deported him.

He was in the Occupied Territories illegally since they suspected him when he arrived and gave him a visa on condition that he not enter the Territories. I have no such restrictions on me but if they wanted to deport me it would be very easy just to plant some hash on me or something.

Anyhow, I phoned the guy back but couldn`t get through. So I emailed him telling him that I was very busy and if there was a crisis I would not be able to make it to Jerusalem so I would prefer that he came to Bethlehem (a 20-30 minute journey) to interview me here.

Since then I have not heard from him. There might be a number of good reasons for this and maybe I`m just a paranoid nut but I just had this funny feeling about this guy when I spoke to him on the phone.

When they kicked my predecessor out they went to a lot of effort and used a lot of resources to get rid of one activists among the many others who are here and who only broke a very minor law.

However, if you look at it in terms of information warfare, then the Media Coordinator is the most important of activists since it is his job to make sure that the indymedia (and if possible the mainstream media) and all our supporters know what`s going on and what we`re up to.

I`ve heard that Neta Golan`s interrogation went well. They asked her questions for half an hour but she refused to answer saying she would answer in court. Outside there were about 20 supporters carrying placards that read `Neta We Are Proud of You` and `Peace Activists are Interogated While War Criminals Walk Free`.

I sent out an email last night about her and got lots of emails back expressing support for her.

Michael Shaik
ISM Media Coordinator
Beit Sahour
Occupied Palestine.