Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When it's a friend...

Living in Ramallah for an extended period of time, to an extent, in errs you against what is happening in the rest of the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. In Ramallah, it is possible, even given the Israeli occupation to obtain a degree (just a degree mind you) of normalcy.

Ramallah is a busy, bustling city that never seems to sleep. And inside its surrounds, the worst aspects of the occupation are not always visible. Last week, I travelled to Occupied East Jerusalem, via Qalandia checkpoint, for the first time in about 6 weeks. As I approached the checkpoint in the service, the apartheid wall suddenly appeared before me. I was stunned that I felt quite shocked when I saw it. It made me realise that I had adjusted, at least a bit, to the occupation and having spent the last month mainly in central Ramallah and its surrounds, I had developed a degree of "normalcy".

Sure there were PA soldiers on the streets everywhere, yes every few weeks the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) would enter the city, carry out an attack and just as quickly leave, yes I was still outraged every time I read about what the IOF were doing in Salfit or Nablus or Jenin but now that I was in Ramallah, I was not having to witness every single day the worst aspects of the occupation. And without realising it I had become somewhat complacent.

Seeing the apartheid wall suddenly appeared before me last Saturday and having to traverse Qalandia checkpoint once again soon dispelled that complacency. Just as today it was once again dispelled.

This morning, the IOF entered the northern city of Qalqilya to conduct a military raid, supposedly against Palestinian resistance fighters. Qalqilya, a once thriving city of 50,000 people, is close the Green Line and perhaps only and hour from Tel Aviv and as a result it became one of the first Palestinians cities to feel the bitter bite of the apartheid wall. In 2004, I visited Qalqilya many times and I remember the horror I felt the first time I saw and experienced this completely walled city. (see my 2004 blog: The Wall: a land grab that creates violence

When I read about the military assault today on the Palestinian Maan News Agency website, I thought to ring my friend M, who is from Qalqilya (but now lives in Ramallah) to see if his family was okay. But then I didn't, thinking to myself, that Qaliqilya is regularly raided and I was sure that there was nothing to worry about and his family would be fine. Without realising it my complacency had once again raised its head.

When I did finally ring him two hours later to see if all was okay, I was horrified to hear that the houses of two of his uncles had been demolished by the IOF during the invasion and that two rooms of his parents house had also been demolished. M told me that the IOF had seized one of the house belong to another family member and set up an interrogation base and they were interrogating all the men in the local area. He told me that his father and brother, along with all the other men in the neighbourhood, had been detained.


He was in regular contact with his mother and was waiting on the latest news to make sure that his family were all okay. When I rang him back 30 minutes later to see if he was okay and if his family okay, the answer was no. During that short 30 minutes since I spoke to him, the IOF had gone in and demolished his parent's house completely - the house he grew up in, the house that his mother and father had spent a lifetime building, the house that was home to him and his five brothers and sisters, gone forever.

According to the reports in the Israeli media, the IOF had enter Qalqilya in the morning and more than 30 Palestinian civilians had been injured in the military assault. Some were suffering from teargas inhalation; one young man had been shot in the head. According to the Israeli newspapers, the IOF had surrounded "a cluster of homes in which the IDF said wanted militants are hiding....The troops called over loudspeakers on the militants to surrender, but were met with no response. During the operation, which is still ongoing, IDF bulldozers demolished two of the homes in the compound in an attempt to force the militants out, and are threatening to demolish the rest".


This is of course the usual story put forward by the IOF to justify their actions, their target killings, their house demolitions, their arrests, their curfews, their mass abductions and arrests, their invasions.

The reason why there was "no response" from the supposed militants was because there were no militants in the houses. My friend's family are ordinary Palestinians, just a family trying to survive and get by like any other family in the world. But now their world has been turned completely upside down.


Living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I have been a witness to what my friend Wendy calls the "everyday sorrows of the occupation" – the checkpoints, the curfews, the house demolitions, the arrests, the beatings, the dehumanisation and collective punishment of 4 million people. And like any normal human being, I have felt anger and sadness at the injustice and inhumanity I have witnessed. But today, I could feel no anger. All I could feel was bewilderment, pain and helplessness.

Today, the brutal Israeli occupation cut closer to the bone then it had ever done before - it was a friend, someone I know and care for, someone I admire and respect, someone who is dear to me. Today, the Israeli occupation army destroyed, without blinking an eyelid, the lives of the family of someone I love.


At a loss what to do, feeling completely helpless, I rang the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition. Meir, their chief field worker, was surprised when I told him that the IOF had been demolishing houses in Qalqilya. He said that he had not heard any reports about it yet. I explained the situation to him and how my friend, so angry wanted to sue the IOF for the demolition of his parent's house. Before Meir responded, I knew what he was going to say.

"Yes, we have good Israeli lawyers who can help him, but the chance of a successful outcome is very low". He went on to say that the Israeli Courts will not intervene if the IOF say the demolitions were part of a "security operation".

It wouldn't matter that there were no "militants", it wouldn't matter that the homes of three innocent families had been destroyed, it wouldn't matter that the lives of these families have been all but destroyed in just one short afternoon.


So now my friend is waiting.

Waiting to hear if all is okay with his family, to hear if his brother and father have been released, to hear that nothing more has happened to his family.

Tonight three branches of his family, more than a dozen or more people, will be forced to try and find comfort under the roof of his grandfather and extremely ill grandmother's house.

Tomorrow, he will travel to Qaliqilya to see his family and to make sure they are all okay. Tomorrow, he will climb through the rubble of the house that was once his home. Tomorrow, he will sit and try and comfort his mother, father and brothers and sisters. Tomorrow, the occupation will continue and the homes and lives of more Palestinian families will be destroyed.

And tomorrow what will you do? Will you stand up and be counted? Will you move a motion at your union to support the international boycott? Will you organise a rally to call for an end to the siege of Gaza? Tomorrow, will you take stand and say enough is enough? Tomorrow, will you join the campaign to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine?


B'Tselem Report on Qalqilya House demolitions:


Yishai Kohen said...

We won't allow your terror in OUR land, and if this bothers you,then tough luck.

Don't worry: The security fence that bisects OUR land will eventually come down. Anyone who accepts Israeli sovereignty and peace in OUR land will remain.

Anyone who doesn't will leave.

Anyone who doesn't accept Israeli sovereignty and peace in OUR land and refuses to leave will end up in جهن real fast.

Kim said...

As we say in Australia - "in your dreams mate".

But please feel free to rant and rave, don't let me stop you...

Nothing exposes better the crazy viciousness and vile racism of Zionism then Zionists themselves.

Yishai Kohen said...

As we say in Israel, self-inflicted naqba to you.

We can keep this up forever. As you know, your violence and murder has only hurt you. With hundreds of thousands of Philistines gone already- with their money, and with hundreds of thousands more who WANT to leave (close to 40% of the population according to Philistine polls), I'm not concerned.

The only ones raving are the Philistines, as they try to get their visas.

Allah's will, you know.