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Rachel Corrie & Hana Shalabi: Flowers among thistles of Israeli occupation

by Nathan Stuckey

21 March 2012 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

Rachel Corrie was murdered nine years ago by an Israeli bulldozer.  Hana Shalabi has spent the last 34 days on hunger strike an Israeli prison, yet she is accused of no crime.  This was not the first time Hana has been held in Israeli prisons while being accused of no crime. She was only recently released as part of a prisoner exchange after being held without charges for 25 months. Hana has said that “freedom is more important than life,” and she knows of what she speaks.

The protesters who turn out every week for the demonstration against the occupation and the no go zone agree.

An Israeli bulldozer did not stop the message of Rachel, Israeli prisons have not silenced Hana, and Israeli bullets will not stop our protests.  Rachel Corrie was only 23 years old when she was killed; Hana Shalabi is 29 years old.   Our protest this week was in honor of these women and all of the strong women of Palestine.

At a little after eleven in the morning we set off down the road north from Beit Hanoun and towards the no go zone.  There were about 25 activists from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative, the International Solidarity Movement, and other international activists.

As we walked music played over the megaphone.  Flowers were in bloom everywhere, it is springtime in Gaza.  I was so enthralled by the flowers that I didn’t even think to look up and see if the giant balloon that always floats over Gaza observing our move was there.  We walked past blooming flowers, green fields of wheat, a few olive trees that the Israeli’s haven’t managed to destroy yet into the no go zone.

The change was dramatic.  Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on earth, it is also very poor, any land that can be cultivated is cultivated.  The no go zone is not cultivated; it is overgrown with thistles and weeds.  It used to be one of Gaza’s most fertile areas, full of orchards and crops.  Israel destroyed all of this, the trees were cut down, any houses in the no go zone were bulldozed, all wells were destroyed.

We made our way up a small path that we have cut through the thistles on previous demonstrations to the trench which Israel has cut across the no go zone.  The trench is lined with flags from one of our previous demonstrations, Palestinian flags and flags from many of the factions in Palestine.  We were carrying pictures of Hana and Rachel, some of us carried posters of Rachel decorated by the kids of the Rachel Corrie Youth Center in Rafah for the anniversary of her murder.

Sabur Zaaneen from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative spoke about the importance of continuing the popular resistance and the inspiration that we all take from Hana and Rachel.  We left pictures of Hana and Rachel in the thistles as we left, perhaps the Israeli soldiers can look out from their concrete towers on the faces of their victims.

 Nathan Stuckey is a volunteer with International Solidarity Movement.