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Letter from Mawasi

from Carla

Mawasi is a village on the coast side of Rafah (in the Gaza Strip) that is surrounded by settlements and guarded by a checkpoint that has not allowed a Palestinian through in 2 years. The villagers survive on whatever they themselves grow. No food or medicine has been allowed though for these 2 years. People who leave have not been allowed back. The action that is happening tomorrow has beem organized by Palestinians who are going to try & get back to their homes. They estimate that 300 will gather to return. There are 6 internationals here with the International Solidarity Movement that have been asked by the Palestinians to accompany them past the checkpoint. The Palestinians are very excited about doing this~

Yesterday a group of us went up to a tank to communicate that we have been getting shot at in homes & our countries would be very upset (so maybe we lied) if any one were to be hurt. I was so outraged after the experience. To quote Barbara Kingsolver, I “have the privelege of a safe life”, even here. I can walk up to the tank and know they would not directly shoot me (well, it did shoot over our heads and at our feet). However, any Palestinian is fair game. The soldiers shoot into occupied houses, down alleys and streets. They just blanket an area with bullets. Many civilians are killed, children in classrooms, children playing outside of their houses, women cooking dinner. . .all unarmed, all innocent of doing anything other than existing. How th! is helps Israeli securuty baffels me.

Few of these people have ever seen a soldier, much less spoken to one – Gaza is so different from what I have heard of the West Bank where soldiers and civilian Palestinians see each other face to face regularly. Here the soldiers are up in guard towers at checkpoints or inside of tanks, APC’s & bulldozers. They just shoot. There’s no talking, no negotiating. Yesterday was not a planned action we were just going to look at the wall being built to better keep Palestinians in and the tank started firing above our heads. We then started to walk towards it to speak with the soldiers that we are indeed here to stay. (ISM has not had a presence in Gaza until this summer, unlike the West Bank where there have been ISM involvement for 2 years). The group of Palestinians that hung behind had never been that close to a tank. One young man who is one of our escorts told me he had never seen the face of an Israeli until then. They are always too far away. (Gaza is very traditional, the women with the ISM scarve ourselves, and all of us move around the city with Palestinians accompanying us).

I’ve been calling media in Jerusalem to try and get coverage of tomorrow. This has never been done before – families trying to get back to their village walking past a checkpoint. They would just get shot. The determination, the strength of these people is humbling. After all they live through, all their losses, they laugh and joke and love their children. The young man who accompanied me and Molly to see the demolished house of the family she had been with told me, when he saw me in tears as we walked away, that this is why they laugh so much–a person simply cannot contain that much grief forever – they see no future different than what they are experiencing right now. And they go on, setting the latest atrocity behind them. Amazing people, no whining, no complaints, but this steady determined day by day perseverance.

Yours (and theirs),