Ants

keerre makorre
keerre makorre

I

 

When I was little, we lived in an eccentric old house designed by my Nana as his first architectural experiment. One of the things he got wrong was the ‘chip’ floor of the bathrooms (‘chip’ is the local term for a mix of cement and stone ships used in the place of tiles for indoor flooring). Another was the set of heavy ceramic sanitary fittings. I have never seen such ponderous commodes, so full of character. Or maybe that was the state of the art in 1974.

 

Wrong because by the time I was old enough to notice it as unusual, the floor of our bathroom had an actual geography all its own – minute variations in relief, a major river with two tributaries, the river basin and something like a cross between an ox-bow lake and the swell at the confluence of two rivers, an under-developed delta and what would generally be classified as flood-plains.

 

Naturally, this was a fascinating object of study on long summer afternoons as one whiled away the time on the commode. I would note the changes, minute, yet visible to he who cared (and I did), in the boundaries of the river-bed, new meanders and distributaries in the lower reaches, and of course, the ants. If it was really hot, there would only be one or two brave souls, knocking about, going one way, then another in that odd way peculiar to ants – as if they bump into fences one cannot see. These were the explorers and foragers, though what they hoped to find on the barren cement floor I could not fathom – except, of course, on the lucky day when they would hit upon the body of a dead cockroach that its (human) killer had forgotten to sweep away. Then the army would emerge to carry it away. When it was more humid and/or cooler, there would be a lot more of them, busily going about their ant-work – the scouts expanding their exploratory sweeps, the delivery boys rotating in the manner of a baggage carousel, some stopping to confer, seemingly talking with their fore-limbs, others sharing a heavy load, yet others completely solitary.

 

I loved observing the solitary ant at its exploratory task. At times I’d imagine myself in its place, scurrying about on some secret mission. At others, I mocked its patent stupidity and seeming aimlessness. Over time, I understood, though I did not then know the word for it, what omniscience might feel like.

 

Sometimes I would mess with the ant, but that was after the stage where its status as a creepy-crawly (another English word I did not know then) used to scare me. What ended the fear was the discovery that all it took to stop an ant sprinting up my leg was a finger flick, carom-style. I wondered about my earlier fuss when I realised that you could stop an ant completely by stepping on it. Though it was more fun to almost kill it. What are called thongs now, we used to call Bata ki chappal (Bata sandals, after the company that most successfully marketed them in Pakistan). Simple, utilitarian, one colour – white. The sole had a web of hexagonal cells marked in raised rubber, like primitive treads that made it difficult to slip even on a wet floor, the cells acting as suction caps to steady the feet.

the closest thing to the high-water mark of fashion in my milieu in the late 80s

 

To almost kill an ant, then, you had to train it first, teach it the rules of the game. Instead of stepping on it directly and squeezing and grinding with the foot until you were sure that even hiding inside a cell, it would be crushed, you lowered the chappal lightly on it, then lifted it up without ever resting your weight on it. As soon as the chappal is lifted, the ant comes scrambling out. If it’s really stupid, it’ll come back to have another look at the big white slab, but usually it tries to get away. Then I’d play with it, heading it off one way, then the other, then I’d do the almost kill again, perhaps keeping the chappal down a little longer, wondering if ants suffocate. It generally took four or five rounds of the game to bore me. Mostly I would let it go in the end, occasionally, I killed it, occasionally, it would force me to revise my delusions of omnipotence by escaping despite much squishy grinding or else, if it was nimble, it got away during the heading-off stage while I remained weighed down on my seat.

 

Other times, the ant would mess with me, trying to climb aboard the chappal. It used to scare me out of my wits, especially when there were several of them and it would be terrible if they attacked on both fronts (feet). The only thing to do was to face the attack boldly, vigorously, to dust them off quickly, to stomp without remorse. It even got to be fun, especially seeing them breaking up in disarray and making a run for it.

 

But there was a quiet, horrible passage before that – watching a pale red, almost transparent neophyte climb out. It seemed to be blind for it would stop for ages feeling in front of it before taking a step. It looked unnatural, alien to me, this too vulnerable thing. It did not inspire any kindly thoughts, no protective instinct – quite the opposite, I had an overwhelming desire to get it out of my sight. I could not bring myself to stomp on so small a thing, but I wanted to not have to know of its existence – it seemed too weak, it asked for too much. Without being able to explain it, I was revolted by it.

 

I think it was seeing an ant tentatively pick its way around a trickle of water, then running away in alarm, that gave me the killer idea – inundation. They died by the hundreds. Freedom from fear! Even during the worst of the monsoon season when they would be streaming in endlessly through the gaps between the window and its frame. Epic battles followed, lasting an hour or two on occasion, involving huge numbers of ants swept down the drains, even splashed off the walls. I felt euphoric, all-conquering.

 

The trouble was, the critters never gave up. True they were only maintaining their convoys, but I took that to be a violation of our territory, trespassing en masse and I, son of the house, was never going to take that lying down. The invaders had to be turned back. And yet, stupidly, they kept coming. Even if they gave up for a while, they would be back in a few hours or the next day. It was frustrating. And it became really scary in the last battle – they actually seemed to have identified me as the source of their misery and they came for me. No longer would they dutifully turn back to their convoy track at every pause in my barrage, they actually came for me, tried to swarm me. But I stood firm, opened all the taps, drowned and stomped and splashed. But they still kept coming, making directly for my legs, even trying to swim. I ran. When I came back in the evening, it was calm. I tested the waters by messing with a few – some were still in a combative mood, others had reverted to docility. I decided to leave them alone – they were obviously too dumb to understand the notion of property. Afterwards I realised that my skin need not crawl at the mere sight of a little black dot creeping out of a crack because, left alone, it actually did not care whether I existed or not and tended to mind its own business. I tried leaving them alone, lifting my chappals out of the way if they approached. Life became simpler, less anal.

 

Besides there were two boys in the new family next door and it was more fun playing with them.

II

[…]

As a child, I met Palestinians.  They were there, working in construction or sanitation.  But there was never a chance to meet as equals.  Instead there were fears, being fed by the media, by what we learned in school.  I learned always that we were defending ourselves from people who wanted to kill us.

It wasn’t until I was 15 years old that I learned of the occupation.  It was during the first intifada, because before the first intifada Palestinians, the occupation, simply didn’t exist to us.  The first intifada made it impossible for Israelis to ignore Palestinians.  But I was raised on Jewish history, a history of oppression, dispossession, suffering ethnic cleansing, of being forced out of community after community.  Could we really be doing these things to another people?

I couldn’t believe it because I was a part of the consensus opinion in Israel, that we are morally superior.  They are violent.  We have purity of arms.  If we do kill a civilian or an innocent, it’s by mistake.  Even if these mistakes happen every single day.  I didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes.  I refused to believe that a soldier would open fire on an innocent child, but I saw it.  Unfortunately in Nablus where I live, I see it too often.  When I would hear about a child being killed by a soldier, I would think-no, he must have thrown a stone, he must have been doing something that endangered the soldier and forced the soldier to shoot back.  I wanted to believe that the children were throwing stones.  But when you are in the West Bank, and you see a child throw a stone at a tank, you understand that if that child is killed, that is murder.  And very recently, 5 internationals were with Baha, one of the children who we knew well, and soldiers in an armoured personnel carrier picked him out from among the internationals, shot him twice in the chest, and killed him.

As a child I wouldn’t have been able to believe this.  I would say-the proof of their violence is suicide bombing!  We would never do something like that.  One of my classmates asked me: what’s the difference between a suicide bombing and a Phantom jet bombing a refugee camp?  I said-we don’t bomb refugee camps.  I couldn’t believe the only difference between us and them was that we had better weapons.  But I went home and asked my father.

“Is it true that we bomb refugee camps with Phantom Jets?”

“Yes.  The terrorists think they can hide in the refugee camps, so we prove that they cannot” he told me.

But that wasn’t even enough to change me, because the conditioning runs very deep.  So deep that when I first went to the West Bank, during Oslo, I would have anxiety attacks.  Once a week I would go, and every trip I would be filled with anxiety, filled with fear, thinking: “they all want to kill me!”  And it took at least fifteen minutes of seeing people going about their business, talking to each other, working, doing almost anything other than thinking about how much they wanted to kill me, before I calmed down.  Seeing their openness, their willingness to accept me, their generosity, that has been the greatest gift of overcoming my fear-the chance to discover the wisdom, the beauty of the Palestinian people.  Israelis who can’t overcome their fear are much poorer for not having the chance to do that.

After a year and a half of this anxiety, it mostly went away.  But as soon as things changed, when the political situation would become worse, I would fall back on that conditioning and become afraid again.  In 2000, when the second intifada broke out, I was afraid.  I was in Nablus and asked my fiancé, am I being paranoid because I’m afraid?  He said: “yes!”

[…]

” Neta Golan

— Excerpts from a talk given in Toronto by George Rishmawi and Neta Golan, 20 November 2002, ZNet

The Arabs called it a “day of rage” but the Israelis were the ones demonstrating their rage outside Orient House yesterday. The Palestinian youth who dared to hold up a Palestinian flag made of paper was seized by six border guards and plain-clothes police, kicked, beaten, punched in the face and back and then kneed in the groin in front of us all. Many of the police had been brought down from Haifa, where a Palestinian suicide bomber had blown himself up a few hours earlier in a vain effort to murder Israelis in a café, and there was a tangible desire to inflict pain on some of the crowd.

A tall, thin young man with shaggy brown hair who tried to escape a policeman’s grasp at the iron security barriers was dragged back into the police lines and set on by eight men. There must have been 20 television cameras and a score of photographers running level with the Shin Bet intelligence boys as they dragged the man screaming up the road towards Orient House, kicking him in the chest and forcing back his head until he choked. The moment he was in the back seat of a white police van, an Israeli plain-clothes man in a red shirt set upon him. As he was held down from the other side of the vehicle, the Israeli kicked him again and again between the legs until the young man was crying in a high, animal voice.

It was, as one of the foreign protesters muttered, enough to turn a Palestinian into a suicide-bomber. It was also very, very weird. Here we were, perhaps a hundred journalists watching a hundred “peace” demonstrators, European, American, Christian and Jew, and Palestinian, and every few minutes, on a signal from a fat policeman in a blue shirt, his colleagues would run amok.

[…]

A thought kept recurring in our minds: if this is what the Israeli police do to Palestinians in front of us, what do they do to them behind our backs?

Nor was it difficult to guess what these young men were thinking. Just a few hours before, they had heard that a 10-year-old Palestinian girl had been shot dead by Israeli troops in Hebron, in another of those notorious “clashes”, as the press likes to call them, and that, after a night of grieving, her 60-year-old grandmother had died of a heart attack.

A little after midday yesterday, the little girl and her grandmother were buried together in the same grave.

— Israeli police ‘carry out routine, organized cruelty’, By Robert Fisk in Jerusalem 14 August 2001, © 2001, The Independent.

As I write this from Jerusalem, I still have no idea how he’s doing: the 13-year-old-boy from Qalandia who Israeli soldiers shot in the face. Nor do I even know his name. We kneeled, shoulder to shoulder behind a parked car, while windows exploded like water balloons all around us. We had nowhere to go, and the instant he looked through the passenger side window it happened. The blast and his blood splattering on the ground with shards of glass.

And I’ve no idea how he’s doing. Nor do I even know his name.

Just seconds earlier, as I stood completely alone and pinched between a car and a family bric-a-brac shop, one soldier trained his rifle on me. I ducked down behind this car and bullets whizzed past, dinging light poles and car doors and everything in their way. I picked a couple of them up and pocketed them–one rubber peg and one solid steel pellet.

Bullets are bullets. Whether rubber or rubber-coated steel or steel or “live.”

[…]

He staggered off, his hand over his bleeding face, falling into a cinder-block wall before a group of his friends scuttled him into a nearby van, at the frantic urgings of the driver. I just wanted to leave. To pretend I didn’t just see all that. To pretend that this place called Palestine didn’t exist. To pretend that war and bullets didn’t live here. To pretend I didn’t care.

I just wanted to leave.

But it hit me straight in my heart.

[…]

— My Mother’s Son, By Trevor Baumgartner, 13 December 2001, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (Article starts on P 32)

[…]

He Watered the Earth; And in the Earth He Was Buried

Next was the family of Diab Al-Sawari, who’d been assassinated just three days earlier. His wife had prepared a great meal because the tanks were pulling out of Nablus and Diab could return home after a week’s absence. Just before sitting down they heard the unmistakable crushing of concrete outside. Tanks were pulverizing the road outside their home, and when Diab stepped out on his terrace to see what was going on, a sniper shot him cold. Three times in the head.

His cousins passed the disfigured bullets around the room, and I held in my hand what my taxes have paid for all these years. His wife, in her ninth month of pregnancy, called out to the Americans before we left her on the very terrace Diab died on, “What are you going to do about this? How come your people kill us? How come your people give Israel guns and tanks and Apache and F16 to kill us? What are you going to do about this?

Does anybody see us?”

Her questions and her pain were more bitter than any coffee I’ve ever drank. And harder to swallow. And in that moment all that ran through my head was a line from a June Jordan poem that says, simply, “How do I negotiate my shame?”

Indeed.

Diab Al-Sawari is survived by his wife and his five children.

[…]

— A Strange Trip, Account of the Second ISM Campaign, December 2001, By Trevor Baumgartner, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (Article starts on P 35)

[…]

It was in that road, just yards from the hospital, that an elderly woman with a walker was shot dead by an Israeli sniper just weeks ago.

[…]

While we were regrouping in the parking lot, two ambulances sped into the driveway. Inside one was the body of 28 year old Manel Sami Ibrahim, who was standing near her window when an Israeli sniper shot her through the heart. Her husband and three children were in the apartment.

“This”, as one Palestinian relief worker said to me, “is the Occupation.”

[…]

Returning to Sheikh Zayed Hospital, we learned that IDF soldiers had shot Arduf Mussa Khandil, a 23-year old mentally retarded man whom we had seen on the hospital grounds just hours earlier. Apparently he had wandered out into the a street behind the hospital. Witnesses saw 11 Israeli soldiers chasing him. They speculated that the young man ran because he was scared when he saw armed soldiers. He was unarmed. They shot him dead.

[…]

— “This is the Occupation”, By Jeff Guntzel, 10 April 2002, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (Article starts on P 55)

[…]

The presence of internationals affords locals some protection. Activists ride in Red Crescent ambulances. They help farmers who try to labour in the shadow of Israeli settlements and their violent occupants. They remove roadblocks so that people can go about their business. They run playgroups. They bear witness.

And they take a fair amount of verbal and physical abuse from settlers, police and soldiers. The group I was with was the first to sustain bullet wounds, as we marched cheerfully to Beit Jala that Easter Monday. Since then, other ISM activists have been shot – most recently, Tom Hurndall on Friday. And last month, Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a Caterpillar bulldozer.

Fortunately, none of us was killed last year, although several were injured. An Australian friend is still carrying bits of a bullet in her stomach. And if you have ever heard that stuff about nervous soldiers panicking under pressure, I particularly urge you to see this film.

You will never see a soldier under less pressure than the man who decided to open up on us. You will see Kunle and Lillian, our designated negotiators, walk forward with arms outstretched to approach the armoured personnel carrier. Kunle was hit in three places.

[…]

— Four Days in Hell, By Jeremy Hardy, 15 April 2003, Guardian, © The Guardian

[…]

She got back to Jenin camp towards the end of the invasion. “It was the smell of rotting human flesh that first hit me. There were still soldiers in the camp, but a lot of people chose to violate the curfew, to bury their dead and to drag in the wounded. One man had been shot at close range, and his body was rolled over by tanks until he was nothing but bones and a sheath of flesh. There was no machinery to dig up the dead, so I helped to dig up the bodies by hand. Very few intact: burnt, broken body parts, a little girl’s plait and the foot of a baby. In clearing away the rubble I picked up what remained of a head. There was the body of a little girl who was curled up with her teddy bear. She had suffocated when her house was demolished.”

For a while, after April, she felt a numb fearlessness that allowed her to walk up to tanks and into the line of fire, to confront soldiers and withstand beatings at checkpoints. She emphasises that atrocities occur daily – and, indeed, in the two weeks I was with her, 19 civilians were shot, six fatally. Seven of the victims were children on their way to school, shot as tanks opened fire in the middle of the town. One market stallholder was shot in the head in an erratic spray of bullets from an invading tank as he was setting out his vegetables.

Friday was a very close call. Caoimhe was shot in the left thigh as she stood in between a firing IDF tank and three young boys in the street. I spoke to her on the phone shortly after the attack as she lay in her hospital bed. She explained that she had been trying to persuade the IDF, after they shot dead a nine-year-old boy, to stop shooting at the children. They had told her to get out of their way or they would shoot her. It was while she was clearing the children off the streets that she was shot. She is sure she was a direct target; the tank was close by, the soldier pointed his gun at her and fired, and continued to do so as she crawled to an alleyway for shelter.

[…]

Caoimhe tells me she is OK. A chunk of her thigh is missing but she is grateful that the bullet passed through her leg. Tragically, her friend Ian Hook was shot through the stomach and died. Earlier that day, they had been negotiating with the army to get a sick child to hospital, but the IDF refused to let an ambulance through. When Hook was shot, the ambulance was detained again.

Will she now leave? “I’m going nowhere. I am staying until this occupation ends. I have the right to be here, a responsibility to be here. So does anyone who knows what is going on here.”

— Courage Under Fire, By Katie Barlow, 27 November 2002, Guardian, © The Guardian

[…]

She shows me the picture of her first baby, who died at a year and a half. Around us young men are prowling with guns, houses are exploding, lives are being shattered. And we are in an intimate world of women. Hanin brushes my hair, ties it back in a band to control its wildness. We try to talk about our lives. We can write down our ages on paper. I am fifty, Hanin is twenty-three. Jessica and Melissa are twenty-two: all of them older than most of the soldiers. Samar is seventeen, the children are eight and ten and the baby is four. I show them pictures of my family, my garden, my step-grandaughter. I think they understand that my husband has four daughters but I have none of my own, and that I am his third wife. I’m not sure they understand that those wives are sequential, not concurrent-but maybe they do. The women of this camp are educated, sophisticated-many we have met throughout the day are professionals, teachers, nurses, students when the Occupation allows them to go to school.

“Are you Christian?” Hanin finally asks us at the end of the night. Melissa, Jessica and I look at each other. All of us are Jewish, and we’re not sure what the reaction will be if we admit it. Jessica speaks for us.

“Jewish,” she says. The women don’t understand the word. We try several variations, but finally are forced to the blunt and dreaded “Yahoud.”

“Yahoud!” Hanin says. She gives a little surprised laugh, looks at the other women. “Beautiful!”

And that is all. Her welcome to us is undiminished. She shows me the shower, dresses me in her own flowered nightgown and robe, and puts me to bed in the empty side of the double bed she shares with her husband, who has been arrested by the Yahoud. Mats are brought out for the others. Two of the children sleep with us. Ahmed, the little four year old boy, snuggles next to me. He sleeps fiercely, kicking and thrashing in his dreams, and each time an explosion comes, hurls himself into my arms. I can’t sleep at all. How have I come here, at an age when I should be home making plum jam and doll clothes for grandchildren, to be cradling a little Palestinian boy whose sleep is already shattered by gunshots and shells? I am thinking about the summer I spent in Israel when I was fifteen, learning Hebrew, working on a kibbutz, touring every memorial to the Holocaust and every site of a battle in what we called the War of Independence. I am thinking of one day when we were brought to the Israel/Lebanon border. The Israeli side was green, the other side barren and brown.

“You see what we have made of this land,” we were told. “And that-that’s what they’ve done in two thousand years. Nothing.”

I am old enough now to question the world of assumptions behind that statement, to recognize one of the prime justifications the colonizers have always used against the colonized. “They weren’t doing anything with the land: they weren’t using it.” They are not, somehow, as deserving as we are, as fully human. They are animals, they hate us.

All of that is shattered by the sound of by Hanin’s laugh, called into question by a small boy squirming and twisting in his sleep. I lie there in awe at the trust that has been given me, one of the people of the enemy, put to bed to sleep with the children. It seems to me, at that moment, that there are indeed powers greater than the guns I can hear all around me: the power of Hanin’s trust, the power that creates sanctuary, the great surging compassionate power that overcomes prejudice and hate.

[…]

The soldiers order us all into one room. They close the door, and begin to search the house. We can hear banging and crashing and loud thuds against the walls. I am trying to think of something to sing, to do to distract us, to keep the spirits of the children up. I cannot think of anything that makes sense. My voice won’t work. But Neta teaches us a silly children’s song in Arabic. To me, it sounds like:

“Babouli raizh, raizh, babouli jai, Babouli ham melo sucar o shai,”

“The train comes, the train goes, the train is full of sugar and tea.” The children are delighted, and begin to sing. Hanin and I drum on the tables. The soldiers are throwing things around in the other room and the children are singing and Ahmed begins to dance. We put him up on the table and he smiles and swings his hips and makes us all laugh.

[…]

This is not a story of some grand atrocity. It is a story about ‘normal’, about what it’s like to live under an everyday, relentless assault on any sense of safety or sanctuary.

“What was that song about the train?” I ask Neta after the soldiers are gone.

“Didn’t you hear?” she asks me. “The soldiers came and got the old woman, at one o’clock in the morning, and made her sing the song. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sing it again.”

“What source can you believe in order to create peace there?” a friend writes. I have no answer. Every song is tainted; every story goes on too long and turns nasty. A boy whose baby dreams are disturbed by gunfire kisses a soldier. A soldier kisses a boy, and then destroys his home. Or maybe he simply stands by as others do the destruction, in silence, that same silence too many of us have kept for too long. And if there are forces that can nurture peace they must first create an uproar, a vast breaking of silence, a refusal to stand by as the boot stomps down.

— The Boy Who Kissed the Soldier: Balata Camp, By Starhawk, © 2002 by Starhawk, http://www.starhawk.org

[…]

Cold blooded executions

On Tuesday, August 7th, the military executed one of the men on their “wanted list”, Ziad D’ayas, 28 years old, in cold blood. They also murdered two Palestinian civilians in the vicinity, afterwards claiming they too were “wanted”. This official military statement is an absolute untruth.

One, Mahair Jesmawi, 17 years old, was a student who had just learnt moments before he had just passed his end of the year school examinations. Elated, he stepped out briefly onto the street and was killed. The other was Mohammed Saidz, 24 years old, a mechanic working in his shop who had the bad luck to be happened upon by soldiers going after Ziad. He was shot and died a slow death after ambulances were prevented from retrieving him.

This military action was conducted in a particulary gruesome way. According to eyewitnesses in neighbouring buildings, it started around 9 am that morning. Snipers, and soldiers, many in plain clothers surrounded the area of the mechanic’s roof where Ziad was sleeping. They proceeded to aim and shoot, hitting Ziad in his leg and neck. Ziad fell off the roof into the shop, breaking his limbs but still alive. They then proceeded to bash him all over his body with their guns, before firing 9 dum dum bullets directly into his head, killing him instantly. Their dogs were set on the body, and acid was poured on his arms, legs, and stomach.

[…]

— Tulkarem: A week of extreme violence, By Rebecca Murray, 14 August 2002, ISM Report (P 96)

[…]

Sweeping is part of the rhythm of home life. After a meal you gather the fragments of bread, just as Jesus’ disciples did following the post-sermon meal on the hillside, and then you sweep up the crumbs. Dry sweeping, wet sweeping, inside sweeping, outside sweeping seem almost like reflexes, and assure a constant orderliness in the home and on the street. The Israeli soldiers are acquainted with the manners and methods of the people whose lands they occupy. The incredible messes they so frequently produce, for no security reason, seem to be a physical and spiritual attack on hearth and home.

But sometimes they too fall into the rhythm of local order and orderliness. A family in Jenin city tells that when soldiers left a building they had been occupying, they disposed of their garbage and then swept all of the apartments in the building. During that period, one of the homeowners had passed by an alley after the evening/maghrib call to prayer, and saw an Ethiopian soldier in uniform clearing the ground to pray. He confided to the local Jenin resident, “Shhh, I am Muslim. Don’t tell.”

[…]

— Swept Clean, By Annie Higgins, 18 January 2003, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (P 99)

I left Haifa in 1948 without carrying anything with me, I was 12 years old. I came to this refugee camp, I lived in a tent for few years, and restarted my life once again, I could build this house by working for more than 50 years. And now I see it all destroyed in front of my eyes. How I will like Israel? How I will accept what is not acceptable for anybody on the world? I could not even take my pictures album, I and all my family members left our house by force in our pyjamas. This reminds me exactly of 1948. And now I see that the 50 years of my life were lost once again, I am homeless once again. I am refugee to the refugee camp’s dwellers, who will host me for few days, but not for ever.Who can host me and my married sons and their families? Why I have to be refugee?

— “Abu Muhammad said to me…”, by ISM Volunteers in Nablus, 20 July 2002, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (P 100)

[JENIN] The curfew in Jenin was lifted mid-morning today. Two hours later,

with no warning the army returned to the main city. The streets were still

full of people trying to buy supplies before curfew was reimposed. Israeli

soldiers opened fire on the crowd of people in the market and in the streets.

Al-Razi Hospital has a dead 6 year old girl, Sujoud Mohammad Turki – shot in

the head, and several more wounded, including Sujoud’s 12 year old brother

and 2 1/2 year old sister, who went out with their father to buy food from

the market.

[…]

— Israeli army opens fire on civilians in the streets of Jenin, 21 June 2002, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (P 103)

[…]

We retreated from the main street, regrouped with the Palestinians, and then heard the chanting of the few hundred Israeli peace activists who had bussed down for the demonstration and dodged their way through the tanks of their own army with trucks of food for the village. We joyously joined together and Palestinian embraced Israeli embraced International. Together we turned to the army and began to chant in Hebrew and Arabic “Peace, yes! Occupation, no!”

The Israelis and Internationals linked arms and surrounded the crowd to protect the Palestinians as a long train of APC’s and tanks entered the village and people were lauging, crying, and hugging while the Palestinian children banged together the cans of baby formula the Israelis had brought with them. It was one of the most beautiful things I have been blessed to witness.

[…]

— Peace, yes – occupation, no!, By Conor, 26 August 2002, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (P 112)

[…]

The tank began by opening fire on the muqata’a itself in order “to scare the people”, as one soldier said bluntly. It then proceeded to literally chase students at high speed shooting continuous rounds of live ammunition in the air, as the children ran in all directions. I watched as young girls and boys ran, some in tears and all in fear, their faces seized by terror, crinkled in panic. The tank came and went a number of times, doing circles and leaving them for just long enough to allow another stream of children to begin passing, before opening fire again. The tank was followed by a jeep carrying four soldiers who habitually stopped, got out and fired M-16s at everything in the street.

This went on for over 30 minutes in front of the government building and continued throughout the day. I watched in horror, in complete and utter disbelief, knowing that it was only a matter of time until someone was injured . I was however anything but prepared for it to be two children, one 2 yeas old and one 3, shot in the head and arm hous later by this indiscriminate, furious firing.

[…]

I remember one 14-15 year old girl with tears rolling down her cheeks, her face filled with fear, screaming, as her friend tried to calm her while running away. One tank gone mad that manages to make 150 children run in every direction and one soldier anything but humane who terrorizes the innocent, but who nonetheless couldn’t keep them from coming back.

[…]

May we instead learn from the people in Nablus who have so very much to teach us. They know that there is power in numbers, that there is great strength in oganizing, that you can effectively resist, that hope is a magical force, and that you can beat the world’s fourth largest army with your head and your heart.

— Looking for words, By Susan Barclay, 2 October 2002, © 2004 in the volume Peace Under Fire, Israel/Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement. (article starts on P 112)

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