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Beit Hanoun, 63 years and 300 meters later

19 July 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

The Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, happened sixty three years ago.  The theft of Palestinian land continues even today.  Every Tuesday, for the last three years, the people of Beit Hanoun have protested both the occupation and Israel’s three hundred meter “buffer zone” which Israel has declared on Palestinian land near the border of Gaza.  We gathered today, like we do every Tuesday near the agricultural college in Beit Hanoun.  Local farmers warned us that for the last couple of days Israeli forces had been camped out in the abandoned houses near the border.  Just as their grandfathers were driven from their homes by Zionist violence, so these farmers were driven out of their homes by Zionist violence.  Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Over the weekend six were injured in Beit Hanoun when Israel bombed a well in the middle of a residential district.

At eleven A.M. we set off toward the wall, toward the land that their grandfathers were expelled from.  A drone buzzes overhead.  We can see the clouds of dust raised by the movement of Israeli tanks on the other side of the wall.  The farmland in the “buffer zone” has been newly desecrated, bulldozed again, an area that used to be fields and orchards that had been reduced to a few hardy weeds, now devoid of even weeds.  The Palestinian flags that we had planted there during previous demonstrations buried under the earth.  Given the warnings of Israeli soldiers in the abandoned houses and the bombing over the weekend, we were all more nervous than usual.  Bella Ciao boomed out over the megaphone, but few sang along, most of us thinking our own thoughts, worrying alone.

We walked past the last tree still standing, a beautiful tree covered in fragrant pink flowers.  We entered the newly destroyed “buffer zone”, stopped, planted new flags, dreamed of planting new trees, of seeing a dead zone brought back to life.  People looked into the distance, dreaming of their grandfathers trees, trees that many of them have never been allowed to see, their fruit stolen by the grandchildren of the same people who drove their grandfathers from their land.  We chanted for a free Palestine.  Dust rose from the movement of an Israeli tank.  We returned to Beit Hanoun, but at least we had left a flag behind to commemorate that we were there, that the grandchildren of the cleansed still live.