(typed quickly with out time for proof reading YAY 😉
With the short amount of time i have had to use the internet, and the poor condition of this computer i have not been able to upload many pictures. For now ill give a brief personal update on what I have done the past week or so, now that the delegation i am on is coming to close.
After spending some time in Palestine ’48 learning about internally displaced Palestinians (Palestinians who still live within Palestine ’48 but no longer in their original villages) we returned to Occupied Palestinian Territory (aka West Bank). We spent the night in Ramallah meeting with Omar Barghouti (one of the prominent voices of the BDS movement within Palestine), as well as Uri Davis (a Jewish Palestinian who was one of the first people to write about Israel as an Apartheid state). It was really incredible meeting Omar, who i had read and heard so much about in the past two years of BDS work. He had such a wonderful presence and spoke so clearly. We spoke with him as well about what Ilana writes about below (the Palestinian Authority (PA) new campaign of boycotting Israeli Settlements (colonies)). He also humored us with his sarcastic speak about how he has been “disappointed with how stupid zionists have become” and how he wonders where all the smart zionsts have gone…? As he mentions one of the events in the US where he gave a talk and had a box for questions and 10 of the questions were all exactly the same, asking a common zionist question (i forget what exactly the story was)- to which he responded “when AIPAC (zionist lobby group that often supports zionist education) told you to ask these questions the did not mean for you all to ask the same one.. come on people be a bit more creative” I found it funny.. as well as hopeful that right now many zionists (i have not defined this term on this blog… umm quickly i will just say those that believe in a jewish state in Israel) are struggling to find any legitimate arguments or critiques that hold weight against the BDS movement (calling it anti-semtic and such being their meaningless catch phrase).
Wednesday, July 21
The next day we traveled to a small village called Mas’ha to visit Hani Amer’s home. I have pictures later, but this house is completely surrounded by the wall and settlement fences. Absurdity beyond understanding, where we are in this world i can hardly speak of, yet her and her family live there on going. Munira told us she has been “sick, sick because of living in constant fear.”
With out enough time to feel what i had seen with Munira we traveled about 20 minutes to Hares another small village to meet with Issa Souf, a nonviolent activist who is paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by a soldier in 2001. Here is an artical he wrote called I pity you for becoming murders.
As these two stories whirled around my mind and sent tingles through my veins i sat in the taxi van traveling up to Nablus to meet with students from An-Najah National University. From the difficult stories of violence and suffering where resistance was played out solely by living, and surviving, that we heard earlier in the day, the story we heard in Nablus was one of active resistance, through BDS campaign on their campus. We also got a tour around Nablus with Saed Abu-Hijleh, a Palestinian human geographer, power, and radio show host, how is currently working as a lecturer of political and environmental geography at An-Najah National University. We visited the streets that 8 years ago were filled with Israeli tanks and bulldozers that invaded Nablus. We saw the graves of families killed when 2 story tall bulldozers collapsed the their homes on them. Again another emotional event on a day that seemed to leave no rest for the feelings to settle.
I have trouble some times feeling, after so much time where emotions were used to manipulate. Whether it was as a child of divorced parents that would play to my emotions to use me as a weapon in their battle, or as a young jewish kid who was told the story of the holocaust and suicide bombing to convince me that the Jews deserved at ALL costs the land of israel (in an attempt to get me to move to israel to partake in the demographic war). So walking through the streets of Nablus and hearing these stories all my hold memories of hearing stories of emotional turmoil come up, and it all mixes and it took me time to find ground again. Reminding myself there is a reality and a world beneath the covers, a place i can call home. It can be difficult to find but it has to do with unmasking the power, and recognizing that it’s not about saying whos pain is worse but about who is the aggressor…
It became clear after spending the night in Balata refugee camp in Nablus. We stated at a placed called the Yaffa Cultural Center that has set up an arts studio and classrooms for kids in the camp. The camp was founded in 1952 by the UN for the refugees of Palestine ’48 and for 8 years was just tents (because under international law refugees must be allowed to return when they are displaced because of conflict), but slowly they started building small homes and now today there are loads of 3 story buildings inches apart all in a 2 square kilo area making it so the bottom floors get almost no sunlight do the crowdedness. There is small ally-ways throughout the camp but no road wider then a few feet.
Friday, July 23
This day the uncomfort did not end. We were planning on going to East Jerusalem for a political tour with Abu Hassan to learn about the issues faced by Palestinians being kicked out of homes, and having their homes demolished etc. But because we were going into Jerusalem two people on our delegation could not come because they had Palestinian ID’s. It felt gross going without them (us white folks from thousands of miles away who can travel where ever the fuck we want, while folks who have lived their whole lives only miles from a place can not go…(yea guilt, it’s real)). The tour itself was gross too.. we went to Sheikh Jarrah a neighborhood where Palestinian’s have been kicked out of their homes by the Israeli Army and then moments later their homes were taken over by Jewish Settlers. We were able to walk right up to these houses and see the Israelis now living in them with their giant israeli flags. Across the street are coaches from the family who used to live there that now sits outside the house daily in protest (often having rocks and food thrown at them by the settlers living in what used to be their home).
Then we went to the red cross and met with three people who ran in 2006 on the Change and Reform ballet and are Hammas members. After the election when the Change and Reform one the majority of the seats in the Palestinian Election (West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza) and Israel declared the elections void because they call Hammas a terrorist group and the PA had a coup in the west bank these three citizens of Jerusalem were arrested by Israel for being affiliated with Hammas. After they were released from prison they were given 30 days to leave Jerusalem. They refused, and were currently taking refuge at the Red Cross (they had been there for 2 weeks when we got there). We talked with them for about an hour and were able to ask them a bunch of questions about their situation.
From there we traveled back into the West Bank to Bethlehem, to Aida Refugee camp. We met with people from an organization called Beautiful Resistance that does theater and media work with youth in the camp. Aida camp is literally right against the apartheid wall and has the piece of wall were Banksy (a famous graffiti artist) did his more famous pieces. On the other side of the wall is a huge field of olive trees that used to be a part of the community that now lives in the occupied territory. This is a clear example of the strategy that Israel deploys in their colonizing of the Palestinian land- Maximum land with minimum people (putting the wall as close to where people live as possible thereby taking as much of their land as possible but not the people who work it) Now many Palestinians living there must wake up at 3 AM ever morning to wait for hours at the Bethlehem checkpoint to go work their fields. (a classic saying in Bethlehem now is that if Jesus were alive he would get stopped at the checkpoint, as well as the three kings that go see him at birth would be unable too…)
Saturday, July 24
We left Bethlehem after visiting the Church of Nativity (which was almost destroyed by Israel a few years back, the bullet holes still present). We traveled south to Hebron were we met with Hisham Sharabati, a journalist and activist (a friend of ours on the delegation’s uncle). Hebron is an extremely heated space right now as it has colonies of settlers right within the city, and not just economic settlers (those that move into colonies because of economic advantages offered by Israel) but National Religious settlers who are extremely violent in their daily actions towards Palestinians. There is often clashes between Palestinians and settlers in Hebron, and it becomes a clear example of state sponsored terrorism as the Israeli soldiers stand next to settlers who throw rocks at Palestinian’s and do nothing, yet will beat and arrest Palestinians who just as much as say angry words to settlers. In Hebron we ended up going to a weekly demonstration about opening up Shuhada Street which used to be the main street for Palestinian people in Hebron, but is now controlled by the Israeli Army and being settled by Jewish National fundamentalists. The demonstration quickly became chaotic as the Israeli soldiers continued to beat resistant protests and arrest protesters who wanted nothing but to walk down a street… It happened in a few waves, the first of which demonstrators were able to successful un-arrest a few people (by grabbing on and falling to the ground), but after which the soldiers dashed in and quickly grabbed a few Internationals at random. At the end when the Palestinian people who were leading the demonstration said enough… the Israeli’s would not quit and through a sound grenade at us as we were walked away.
We regrouped with Hisham after and were going to walk to another part of Hebron. To get to this part of Hebron we needed to go through an Israeli check point and as we got close the Israeli soldiers walked right up to us and said you all are under arrest. We immediately were confused and said began to refuse as the grabbed me and another person by the arm and said four of you come with us. I continued to push the soldier off of me as Ilana and Hannah got in-between us (at this point they were demanding that just the men be arrested). The soldier (or should i say kid) continued to grab at us but we slipped out and walked away. During this Lubna, a Palestinian on the delegation with us was asking the soldier why he was trying to arrest us, and he said to her “you people don’t deserve to know”.. the racism overflows..
After grabbing some orange juice and decompressing we found out 6 people were arrested 3 internationals, 2 israelis, and one Palestinian. It was a lot to swallow and my first encounter with the eyes of israeli soldiers who are just waiting to use their guns..
I did not come to Palestine to go to demonstrations, but it has become a popular activity for internationals to do when in Palestine. In the moment i began to see the use of internationals, in their ability to be the front line between the Israeli Soldiers and the Palestinians. It is so complex, all we can do is make our actions in the moment honest, and towards justice.
Perhaps i will go to more demonstrations, but my real work here is about BDS, and about getting the knowledge back to my community.
That evening i slept at a family’s house that live right next to a colony. The settlers there are also the more fanatical racist type. The family had loads and loads of videos which that had taken of their interactions with the settlers. No words..
Violence, hate.. it is not the news it is reality. The family was so strong, and so courageous, they go on living their live- rarely enough water, enough money, enough safety but they go on. I gave the gifts that were made back home at the going away gathering to the family
ahh the images pass quickly, but the feelings grow slowly..
there is much more to share, its been 4 days since then. 2 of the days were the Right 2 Education conference at Birzeit University.
hope hides in the images and lives in touch.