Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Resistance is living...

Just a quick post, as I know it has been awhile. I’ve been traveling in the West Bank for the last few days, so internet is spotty and we’ve been staying with various families, and the joy of spending time with them makes it difficult to pull away to write.

I know many have seen the Naksa Day protests. We were in Deir Istiya in the afternoon visiting with Amal’s family. We did participate in Beit Ummar’s demonstration commemorating the Naksa on Saturday.

It was relatively calm, although the amount of soldiers was excessive. They attempted to arrest a young Palestinian, but internationals prevented his arrest. The soldiers did little to follow up. When they began pushing the protest, we all sit down, which is the picture above. In Qalandia, the checkpoint near Ramallah, the army’s force against the protest was intense. We were not there but have talked to others who were. If interested, Joseph Dana wrote about his eyewitness account in contrast to the major media reports. Joseph Dana is a well-known blogger here and internationally about his reports on what is happening here.

The other day in Jerusalem, the Friday before the Naksa, there was increased presence of the army at the gates of the Old City—only in the areas where Muslims enter.

Because of this, many were forced to pray, either in the street or outside the walls of the old city.

All in all this is a place of struggle and inspiration.
All of which makes what I’m seeing heartbreaking and enchanting, respectively.

There are many stories of beautiful resistance, other than the demonstrations. Above is a good example of how Palestinians do not allow the Israeli army to change their purpose. They are blocked by Israel’s apartheid policies and they find an alternative. It’s inspiring.

The Tent of Nations is another place that shows the resistance of living.

The farmers owning the land have papers going back over 100 years and from three different governments. The Israeli’s keep trying to confiscate the land and doing everything they can to get the family to leave. They have cut off electricity, water, blocked and destroyed the roads to his home.

They have started a summer camp for children from the refugee camps, classes for women and agricultural classes.

One of the great unspoken effects of the occupation is the loss of a whole way of life here. In areas that were predominantly farming and agricultural communities, it is almost none existent as Israel has seized so much of the farmland and basically destroyed the entire agricultural economy. So, once where fruit was a major source of income, Palestinians have to buy produce from Israel in order to feed their families. The classes are open to any Palestinian in the surrounding villages. It’s an interesting merging of Palestinian resistance with international support. Below is a picture of the compost toilets that some German volunteers built. (for jorj J )

All of the buildings, of course, are slated for demolition, since the family cannot get any building permits for structures on the land. Occasionally the army comes in and destroys the structures, including tents, since they say they are illegal.

Am headed out now, so will hopefully be able to write a bit more this evening. I am learning much, sometimes more than I think my heart can hold, but once I think it is too much, I see examples of such heroism and inspiration, that it knocks down my own internal resistance and creates more capacity. Of all of the limited experiences I have had, Palestine is a place that one catches much courage….

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Snapshots of Occupation

"We are not animals, we are human." -Mother from the village of Nabi Saleh

A common echo from the people here, spoken with pride but tinged with pleading for an American audience to go back and speak of the systematic violence and displacement of Palestinians. Over and over again, we hear people repeat to us with disbelief how many times the US Congress stood up to applaud Netanyahu. It breaks my heart to hear the stories and to stand in front of these men and women, accepting their hospitality, knowing my country pays for the weapons that fire rubber coated bullets at 11 year olds.

Tear gas canisters at the base of the wall/fence at Bil'in, where they have been nonviolently protesting for the last 6 and half years. Anna and I stayed at the home of Abdallah Abu Rahma, who was recently release from prison for his role in organizing the nonviolent resistance. The night before we arrived in Bil'in, the Israeli army had set off 16 sound bombs through out the village at 4 a.m. for the sole purpose of instilling fear. His 2 year old son calls the Palestinian flag, "No to the Wall" because of the weekly demonstrations.

he wall at Bil'in that has been built well past the green line, which divides the West Bank from Israel. Bil'in won their court case with the Israeli Supreme Court that this wall must be dismantled and moved back. Although they only were granted a little more than half of their land, it's been years since the decision and nothing has changed.

A Palestinian house sitting on a kibbutz inside of 1948 Israel. The man from the kibbutz considers himself a "leftist" of Israel politics and hates Netanyahu. However, he said he just found out a year and a half ago that his kibbutz contained a Palestinian village. Although this house, which sits on the hilltop overlooking the kibbutz has Arabic inscribed into the stones of the house.

Hebron. Hebron is well inside of the West Bank but is being overrun by settlers. These settlers are often the most ideological and fanatical. Almost all of them carry guns. Palestinians have had to put up these nets above their streets to protect them from the large amounts of trash the settlers throw on them.

Our guide, a member Youth Against Settlements, has lived in Hebron his whole life. He can not walk past those stairs or else he will be arrested. The road to the stairs is surrounded by settlers and there is a Palestinian school at the end of the road. Settlers harass the children everyday as they walk to school, throwing things, yelling at them. They are escorted by many adults every day as they walk to school. He goes through the checkpoints located within Hebron daily, sometimes multiple times. He knows the soldiers, the soldiers know him, but every time they ask for his ID card and never call him by name.

The wall in Hebron which separates an apartment complex and goes right up to the door of the building. This whole street has basically been evacuated and condemned since Israeli settlers are constantly throwing things over the wall at Palestinians. This whole streets of homes and markets are destroyed.

Walking through Hebron, we came across some Israeli settler children. One of the guides said "hello, how are you doing today?" The child immediately ran away, screaming, "Arabs, Arabs!" A soldier came within 30 seconds with a gun. The guides said peace to them and the soldier said, "I have no words of peace for you."

And our government supports all of this with massive amounts of military aid. And our Congress stands up and applauds Netanyahu's speech. Yet we have been welcomed with overwhelming kindness and hospitality. It's almost impossible to bear.

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