July 4th: We got into the West Bank with no hitches.
Unfortunately, I did not get to visit the old city of Al-Quds or Jerusalem, like I promised folks back home I would. I will when I get the opportunity. Around a dozen of us, internationals – from the U.S., Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, and Denmark – along with Palestinians who live outside of the West Bank, crossed into the West Bank and were trained to integrate into ISM, the International Solidarity Movement.
Although the Israeli press recently announced that the army would close the West Bank to internationals, there are a surprising number from various countries working in different organizations. ISM’s purpose is to support communities that are resisting the Israeli occupation using non-violent direct action. There are many ways to resist an occupation, many strategies, many tactics, and it is up to Palestinians to decide which one’s are acceptible and most effective for their own liberation.
Palestinians have invited internationals to support non-violent direct action through ISM and that seems to make the most sense for us as allies. It is quite a challenge and it very humbling to learn about how Palestinians use non-violent tactics in the face of such virulent aggression from settlers and the Israeli Occupation Forces. You need to participate in it to understand it.
A few blocks from us in Ramallah, there is a memorial for a shaheed, a martyr, who used armed struggle to fight for the liberation of Palestine. He was shot dead on a corner [on the 22nd of June]. The Israeli Special Forces who killed him let him bleed to death from his wounds. He could easily have been captured and given the proper medical care but instead he was killed like a dog in the street. The images of this patriot are posted throughout the neighborhood and on the corner he was killed there is a solemn place for remembrance. Being there I thought of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, commander of the Ejercito Popular Boricua – Los Macheteros. Fliberto, a grandfather and Puerto Rican patriot, was gunned down in the doorwary of his home, where he lived with his wife, violently ending 15 years in clandestinity. Seeing the posters and memorial of this Palestinian martyr helped me recognize that although I have not visited Puerto Rico since Filiberto’s death, I am not far removed from those who die for freedom, they are all around us.
Filastine has many Filibertos.
Before our training was over, we received calls that there was need for internationals to come out and support farmers and activists fighting for their land. We immediately responded to the call and headed to the community as allies. Others went to Bil’in, a community that has built an outpost defying the apartheid wall and are helping plan the weekly protest action.
On Monday July 3rd, in Beit Ummar, a farming town near Hebron, Palestinian farmers and landowners have been laying down in front of bulldozers tearing up their land in order to expand settlements. This project is part of Israel’s land grab policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We learned that an elder’s leg was broken by Israeli Occupation Forces and that Musa, a local activist, had risked his life by laying under a bulldozer in order to stop it. Three international activists were detained for hours and released in the middle of the night.
That evening a group of us received them, we met with Musa and the popular committee, and decided to confront the bulldozers the next morning and attempt to halt the uprooting of trees and tearing up of farmland.
Today we headed out to the site of the struggle and were greated by children (shebab) on the street, on bicycles, standing in stoops, staring curiously, and far less curious adults. Musa led us into the orchards and over a ridge where we were confronted by two pieces of machinery, a bulldozer and a backhoe, and about 15 soldiers (Jeish). We wanted to stop the destruction of Palestinian farmland, the machines wanted to destroy Palestine, and the soldiers wanted to stop us. These young Jeish began to yell, push, and beat us. They directed the majority of their wrath towards Musa because he is Palestinian so we attempted to protect him using our bodies. They grabbed him and hit him causing him to fall and we hugged him and tried to aid him and tell the soldiers he was hurt and there was no reason for such violence. We are aware that there is a rich history of Jeish killing Palestinians, but they need to be a hell of a lot more careful with internationals. They pulled us off Musa and beat us but the worse thing was they detained him. He is now in the hands of Shebak or Shin Beit, the Israeli secret police, according to the Israeli military.
Please read the ISM website for more details and ways to help: www.palsolidarity.org
Shukran, I am fine, and will write more when I get the opportunity. There is so much to tell and so much to do, it is difficult to strike a balance.
Friends, please read these words and share them and find ways to do something concrete to change the conditions here… Salam.