Return to Palestine by Theresa Wolfwood
RETURN TO PALESTINE: After the usual unpleasant experience of going through Israeli border control to enter Palestine, we returned to Jericho to visit friends there.We learned that as Palestinians attempt to live a normal life, working and enjoying family and community, the ability to live within their culture is under constant attack as Palestine suffers the economic and social consequences of the occupation. We witnessed some of attempts to obliterate history, culture and the economic livelihood of Palestinians. The area called the West Bank shrinks every day as the land is penetrated and invaded by soldiers and construction crews
– destroying farmland, trees, homes and village space.
We did see a new factory run by a cooperative that is producing couscous for the European market; we sampled lovely Mahjool dates in cold storage. These and other non-perishable foods are exported via Jordan; long waits at the border cannot hurt these products.
Later we saw the crisis in villages that are being squeezed as the same time homes in East Jerusalem are being destroyed. The leaders of Israel have said nothing will st
op their expansion of colonies on Palestinian land. In Walleja, just outside Jerusalem where we arrived about 2 pm – since 7 am that morning 50 trees had been uprooted and killed – the bulldozer had torn up the earth to make a broad strip for a fenced road to connect all the colonies ringed around Jerusalem; 67 home demolition orders served this year and they can happen any time without notice & owners then are given a bill for the work.
In 1948 Walleja had 19,400 dunums (about 4 to an acre) – after this new road is built it will have 1500 & the road will completely encircle the village which will have one road out.
In Beit Jala, also near Jerusalem, a bulldozer came the day we visited & destroyed the garden & playground beside a home – the owner of it has a demolition order – to again make a new barricaded Israeli only road. 35 families have recently lost land to this project.
When we tried to get down the road to this destruction site we were blocked by a coil of razor wire. Our young friends tried to pull it away – a jeep load of soldiers ordered us to stop or they would shoot.
After hours of confrontation; at 7 pm the group was ordered to leave at gunpoint & escorted us back up the road 500 m. where 4 Palestinian Authority soldiers had been standing & sitting around all day, eating chick peas & joking while ignoring the nearby confrontation.
We choose to go in April so we could attend a 3 day gathering in Bil’in where 5 years of resistance to the wall has grown to include many Israeli & international activists at the weekly demonstration every Friday. A local activist, Bassam, was killed at the demo a year ago & many have been arrested & injured. See:www.bilin-village.org for updates and photos.
Every Friday for 5 years there is a non-violent demonstration at the wall. When we attended & suffered from the choking fumes of tear gas – one Israeli activist was seriously injured – at all the demos people are treated regularly for tear gas damage & injuries caused by the canisters – they are launched as high velocity projectiles; a direct hit kills as it did Bassam.
Three days of inspiring meetings at the conference strengthened the network of the Palestinian Popular Committees in Non-Violent Resistance – PPCNVR- 19 villages, including Bil’in, a Gaza community and a village in Golan Heights are part of this growing grass roots resistance to the occupation.
We discussed and strategized the fast growing BDS (Boycott-Divest-Sanctions) Movement.
Since 2005 when 180 Palestinian groups called for a Boycott-Divest Sanctions movement globally, the BDS campaign has taken off & has had significant successes. The UK Trade Union Congress in 2009 passed a resolution supporting & enacting BDS. Just a few successesto mention – Cardiff University in Wales has divested, consumer boycotts are affecting the sale of produce in Europe. In Washington State, USA,solidarity groups have stopped the sale of Israeli products in 2 major chains – Costco & Trader Joe. Norway’s pension fund has divested from Israeli companies; activists are stopping Dublin in Ireland from using Violia, the French company building transit systems in Jerusalem. In Sweden there is a campaign against the department store chain H&M – it is building a second outlet in Jerusalem. Support the boycott of Chapters, Mountain Equipment Coop and Israeli wines in Canada.
There is also now a cultural/academic boycott;in UK the Jerusalem String Quartet had its tour disrupted in every city.Classical music not political? Read the CD cover of this group that boasts that 3 members have a violin in one had & a machine gun in the other.
For excellent background on this and other related issues see:
CALL FOR ACTION: This month the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development); the group to which all the rich nations belong will meet to discuss Israel’s application for membership.Israel practices racial, economic and cultural discrimination against 20% of its poorest population – the Arabs – discrimination which is banned in nearly all OECD members, certainly illegal in Canada. I urge every citizen,including Canadians, of the OECD to write immediately to our governments calling for a refusal of membership for Israel.
There was a call for more international presence in Palestine – rotating peace teams to observe, record and report on events. We cannot rely on the corporate media “We Can Be Our Own Media”
We want to form international organizations to work on behalf of political prisoners – there are thousands of Palestinians in Israli prisons, including children.
We wholeheartedly endorsed forming an international network to support the PPCNVR to communicate the needs and calls from inside and transform them into global action.
As the occupation continues its relentless destruction of homes and lands & builds settlements on stolen land, we must use all possible non-violent strategies – legal, political and community action like the BDS campaign.
The Bil’in conference was especially important for the 5 Canadian delegates because we are all part of the Pan-Canada Bil’in Support Network which is giving support and assistance for the court case against 2 Canadian companies, Green Park Inter.& Green Mount Inter. who are building illegal colonies on Bilin’s stolen land. We tried to have a case heard last year & it was denied; we are appealing this year. We want these companies tried in a Canadian court for their criminal deeds. We are increasing awareness in Canada of the actions of these companies while contributing to growing awareness generally in Canada about Palestine.
The terrible invasion of Gaza also moved many people – in Canada and elsewhere, including Israel, solidarity is growing. Worldwide, Jewish people are joining the movement for Palestine also. We support the brave Israelis who stand with us in solidarity for Palestinians, including Menachim Begin’s grandson. The Israeli poet Aharon Shabtai has said that a state which maintains an occupation does not deserve to be invited to any cultural event…the occupation is barbaric and anti-cultural.
Palestinians cannot enjoy normal culture events and visits while being occupied. The cultural boycott of Israel challenges the bubble of normal involvement in world culture that Israelis enjoy and fund. See:> http://www.pacbi.org/ Resistance takes many forms; keeping people and their livelihood alive is an important act of resistance. We have seen how farmers lose land and trees and how many Palestinians, particularly women, have little means of support. Real support and hope are given by groups like the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature and Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee and the Palestinian Farmers Union by distributing more than one million new trees, providing training workshops, irrigation and water systems and helping income generating projects as well as providing supplies for home gardens- in theWest bank and Gaza. The material aid is accompanied by a sense of solidarity and the knowledge that their cause and needs are remembered and supported by many outside Palestine.
The seed of justice is like an olive seed; planted and nurtured it will grow big with roots and fruits; with constant action and care our solidarity will grow like an olive tree.
Best wishes to the Gaza flotilla with its seeds of hope and material aid. Kevin will return with his stories & we are eagar to share our experiences together with him.
Dr. Moustafa Barghouti, a leading Palestinian intellectual, physician and independent MP (who also was giving first aid at the Bil’in demonstration)called on Palestinians to unite together in non-violent comm
unities – where the real leadership is coming from – and to be active and creatively pro-active as they provide models of self-reliant, rightful resistance. As the signs on the Apartheid Wall (a rich source of popular art
everywhere) read in the village of El Baqaa: To exist is to resist; to resist is to exist.
A quote from poet SUHEIR HAMMAD which she contributed to the document of the Bil’in
“Occupation, curfew, settlements, closed military zones, administrative detention, siege, preventive strike, terrorist infrastructure, transfer. Their WAR destroys language. Speak genocide with the words of a quiet technician….Occupation means that every day you die, and the world watches in silence…
And if you face all of this death and indifference and keep your humanity, and your love and your dignity and you refuse to surrender to their terror, then you know something of the courage that is: PALESTINE.
In solidarity, Terry & Gerd
For many BDS suggestions, books, articles and more information see our website:www.bbcf.ca
URGENT ACTION APPEAL to all PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS Ameer Makhoul, a social movement activist in the Arab community in Israel has been arrested by the Israel Defense Agency. He is Chair of the Popular Committeee for the Defense of Political Freedom and is a leader in Ittajah, the Union of Arab Community based Associations.He is well-kown internationally as an advocate of democratic, non-violent resistance.
He was arrested at 6 am in his home by 18 armed men last week. He is now being charged with spying for Hezbollah and Syria. More information is available on www.alternativenews.org and www.freeameermakhoul.blogspot.com
ACTION: PLEASE WRITE TO THE FOLLOWING AND ASK FOR MAKHOUL’S IMMEDIATE RELEASE and call for the dropping of all charges against him:
Prime Minster Benjiman Netanyahou, Office of the Prime Minister, P.O. Box 167, Kiryat Ben-Gurion, Jerusalem, Israel.
FAX: 972 2 651 2631. E: email@example.com Please write to anyone else you think can act and to any media contacts you have.