Reports from Palestine
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.
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…