June/July 2005


Reports from Palestine

June 10th, 2005, Al Quds

When my friend drove me to the bus station in Haifa, memory transported me to Yafa and to being eleven years old and it being 1948. All the signs of nearly sixty years of occupation clearly told me that my entire society had been crushed to give life to these unimpressive Jewish occupiers. I wanted to cry at the immense loss, the years of pain clearly written in everything. Old stone homes, clearly Arab and Palestinian, hold Hebrew signs signaling this painful theft which must and will be reversed. Still, I would cry for the many who died in violence, poverty, hunger, and those who mourned them.

Today, I walked to the old city of Al Quds. It is Friday. Hundreds of Israeli soldiers and police are distributed along the main road leading to Bab Al Amoud (the Damascus Gate). My secret photographs show the torture of young Palestinian men they execute. As I rode the public taxi later, the ‘Serveece,’ I heard the young men complain of how hard it was and how none of them had been allowed to go to Al Aqsa to pray. “They have no law these people, every day they have some new prohibition. They respect nothing,” one man said. Another described his attempts to enter from each gate of the old city and none were possible -- "The old city of Al Quds is prohibited us today."

Knowing that the second Intifada, the Aqsa intifada, was merely an Israeli attack on Palestinians, I asked friends if the torture of it had ended. They said no and cited many attacks.

I crossed Qalandia today. It is becoming slowly a national border crossing. Very soon Palestinians who live 15 minutes away in Al Quds and have businesses in Ramallah will not be able to commute. Israeli plans to cut Palestinian communities into little Bantustans continue and becomes more obvious.

Political activists say that Palestinians have no organization and no big plan. Palestinian governance is in the hands of the Israelis – the Palestine Authority (PA) most of all. But there is clearly a popular Palestinian plan to resist. In spite of the artificial divisions, the population seems to find their various roles. Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship and live inside the green line behave like African Americans; they seek to obtain as much of their democratic rights as is possible among the brutally racist Israeli Jews. Palestinians in the West Bank and Ghazze do their utmost to tenaciously hold on to their homes and businesses against the military attack on their civilian life.

Palestinians in Amman and other places do a lot of fundraising and support organizing in spite of the oppressive secret services lined-up against them. There is a silent plan in spite of the planned stupidity executed against us via the PA.

June 12, 2005, A Child's Self

Just as her father pulls her away from temptation, a child extends her hand to reach roasted nuts from a seller sitting on a stool at the edge of the walkway to Qalandia checkpoint. She gets one nut and eats it. With the tips of his slender fingers, the seller grabs a little handful, just her size, and offers it too late; the father's pull was too strong. Neither petty child theft nor the principles of capitalist exchange are on his mind. He is merely repeating a tradition in Palestine and elsewhere to fulfill a child's innocence, to avoid injuring her will, and social connectedness.

“We certainly will return,” reads the
sign of a young Palestinian in Lebanon
marking the anniversary of Al-Nakba on
May 15. Around the world, Palestinians
and their allies commemorated the 57th
anniversary of the occupation of
Palestine and the dispossession of
They say to me that Palestine is gone; that moral habits have been thrown to the winds; that each one is out for themselves at any cost; that each seeks their own pleasures; and that immorality is growing. They say regretfully that political commitment gone.

Today I was stuck in the midst of a small battle. I disembarked the 'serveece' from Betunia near Al Manara -- the heart of Ramallah. As I walked across Al Manara, I heard shooting and looked back to see men in civilian clothing with guns shooting upwards and in other directions. The many streets approaching Al Manara filled with male youth. Suddenly there were thousands of men, a veritable sea of black hair surrounded the shooting arena. Clearly, the unemployment is sky high.

I ran into a store as more and more people poured into the street, a few ducking in with me. The storekeepers were generous hosts. Several times I walked back and forth ducking into stores as the shooting foray moved back and forth. I saw the civilians with guns boldly, freely walking among the huge milling crowd. Then a troupe in blue uniforms came by in a stylized military run, guns on their shoulders, yelling orders at the crowd. The battle continued. No one knew exactly what was happening. Later we learnt that the Palestine Authority is seeking a certain military branch of Fateh called the 'Kataeb' because they want to imprison them -- of course on orders from Israel. And of course, we saw no Israeli interference in this little battle this little foray. The Israelis are omnipresent at checkpoints torturing the population but are magically absent at little battles of this type. The geniuses of the big bourgeoisie and their Israeli agents have found a way to use surrogates to conduct their class war. In America they call it black on black violence. Here we all know that the PA police are the buffer zone and are sitting-duck targets for both sides of the class divide. Many feel sorry for them so starvation thin in the blue uniforms.

I did not see any Israeli soldiers at the little battle in Ramallah, but I did run into them at Qalandia checkpoint when I finally left. They opened the door of the Ford 'serveece' and arrogantly looked over the passengers yelling 'hawiyya' (identity card). There were three of them and I was sitting in front. After he translated his rude command into English for my pretended boredom, the first soldier grabbed it rudely. I looked at his companions as he looked at my passport. Their faces are so ugly and I try to analyze why. Their eyes are glazed, satiated with hatred, and their lip muscles are completely loose just short of dripping saliva. They examine the passengers trying hard to become gods. The third one eats watermelon seeds in the Arab fashion and spit the shells in all directions. Is it Arab maleness they imitate and attempt to destroy? Is that why tender Palestinian husbands accompanying their pregnant wives to hospital are special targets of the brutality of Israeli soldiers at checkpoints? I wonder how to describe their morality compared to the tender seller of roasted nuts.

June 16, 2005, Three Goats to Cross Qalandia

So much garbage in this Qalandia, this new Erez crossing, that has become so old that it now takes unusual shapes, such appearances. The place is under pressure that one fears now for their life leaving the relative safety of a 'serveece' to cross the checkpoint. No place to park taxis or fords, less place for the unemployed to try and set-up table to sell stuff. The place is a crowded, beeping, insanity of motion with no clear paths or directions with sharp barbed wire everywhere, with shreds of wind-torn plastic bags, with horizons covered by cement walls, with children frightened, and adults scrambling, and everywhere dust and more dust.

This time I weave through the waist-high cement walkways as though for cattle. I walk through with my passport in my hand and do not stop as I pass several spots where soldiers are torturing civilians. They are unconcerned with me this time. Maybe they think that I am Israeli or 'western' or some such. After all their orders must be to torture the working class in their appearance as refugee-camp dwellers or as villagers. They take their bags apart and ask silly questions such as pointing to some children's clothing and asking "what is that?" At the end of the line-up of soldiers, I see several black women and a man searching with great intensity. The racism of the Israeli military makes them act even more nastily. Yes, the class war at its edges is sick but not surprising. It is not distinguishable by religion, color, or nationality. As I pass, one village woman greets another just past the checkpoint and tells her how they took every parcel she carried apart.

And then I see three men each carrying a good sized goat, brown and black goats, going the other direction to Ramallah. I wonder how they got them through the metal revolving doors of Qalandia which are very small in scale -- no room for suitcases or carried goats. I was tired, but maybe, if I had stayed to watch, there may have been a story about Qalandia that inspired delightful laughter.

Now that I am out of the West Bank and sitting calmly at an internet café in Amman, it seems so long ago and so far away. It all seems hard to believe. What a hell the Palestinians and especially the Palestinian working class is being subjected to! And what heroic resistance it takes to survive and remain sane and sociable. It seems easier to be here, yet there is a pull, an irresistible attraction created by the quiet, stubborn resistance of Palestine. It seems a fountain of beauty and hope – an image of three men working together, each carrying a goat, passing through the metal revolving gate of Qalandia, to assert the right to live, eat, be…

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