smhwpf: (Sandman)
Home now, so rounding off my account of my trip. There's so much I've missed out, quite a bit that's beginning to fade, with different villages getting mixed up in my memory. Ah well, hard to cover everything.

Everyone goes to Hisham's place )

(Almost) The only tourist in Bethlehem )

Anyway, I got a bus from the other side of the checkpoint back to the Damascus Gate, pretty exhausted by now, and spent my last evening and night in Palestine at the Faisal. We were all pretty worried about the airport, and about what our colleagues would face the next day at Qalandia. But I have already spoken of this.

For the official ISM account of what happened at Qalandia, see here. For a map of the Wall, constructed, planned and proposed, see here.
smhwpf: (No power)
They got through Qalandia checkpoint yesterday! Amazingly! I'm a little unclear on the details, though I've had some reports from those who were there. It seems there were about 10 soldiers there, not particularly waiting for them, they were letting the internationals through but not the Palestinians on the march, so obviously that was not acceptable. Then a whole load of kids from a nearby refugee camp came over and started throwing a rain of stones, and the soldiers started going after them and shooting at them. The marchers then tried to interpose themselves in front of the soldiers, sitting down in a big group - though some of them, especially the Israeli peace activists, were actually directly obstructing individual soldiers from shooting, some to the point of standing right up against their guns. (I said the Israeli peace activists were pretty crazy). There was lots of tear gas and rubber bullets, as well as of course live ammo. There were no fatalities, thank God, but a few passers-by were injured, some by bullets and some by stones. The media presence certainly helped reduce the level of violence.

As I say, I am still not entirely clear on how it all panned out, but the long and the short of it seems to be that everyone got through, and no-one was arrested, which absolutely nobody had been expecting and which is a first for a demo at Qalandia. So all in all, a stupendous success. To see a checkpoint like Qalandia opened up must be a huge morale-booster to people all over Palestine. A real blast of hope. Hope beyond hope.

As for the airport, I was questioned for about 1 and a quarter hours, nothing really serious, didn't even ask about ISM. And very thoroughly frisked and everything searched. The others who went on the same day had similar experiences, and in each case it seems that our passport numbers showed up on the computer and triggered something. This suggests some sort of mole passing numbers to security, and probably means we are all on a blacklist for getting back again, which is somewhat concerning. Anyway, I'm back in Blighty now, and all is well. After my experiences at CAAT though, it doesn't surprise me in the least that there should be an informer somewhere in ISM, I'd be surprised if there wasn't.

A few more bits and pieces around the end of my time in Palestine later.


Aug. 18th, 2004 08:47 am
smhwpf: (Sandman)
On a more serious note, while I and a number of others fly home today, the march has been continuing, and today reaches its climax as they try to go through the notorious Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. (I booked my ticket months ago, before I knew about the march, and it was non-changeable).

Qalandia is one of the worst checkpoints for Palestinians being kept waiting for hours, detained, beaten, etc. etc. There have been a number of demonstrations at Qalandia, which have tended to be met with severe violence by the army. The marchers have been preparing plans, scenarios, working out roles in affinity groups, etc., for several days, but no-one expects it to be anything other than very tough going. There will likely be large numbers present, the ranks swelled by Palestinians from Ramallah.

The goal is to get through the checkpoint. This is not expected to happen, as no such demonstration has, but they're not planning to meekly turn back either. At such demonstrations, sound bombs and tear gas have always been used, rubber bullets very often, and sometimes live ammunition, even with internationals present.

While I don't relish being gassed and shot at, I wish I could be there with them, with my friends. I hope they will be all right. I will certainly be praying for them, and I hope some of you will too, or the equivalent of prayer in your belief system.

All who will be there, you are in my thoughts today.
smhwpf: (Samwise)
Fly home today. People have been getting loads of hassle at the airport. Questioned for hours, in some cases strip-searched, in others having their bags taken and only returned a couple of days later.

But I have taken drastic measures to reduce my chances of being recognised and picked out by airport security. Hope they work after such a sacrifice...
smhwpf: (Samwise)
Running out of energy here with this. Ah well, on we go.

The rest of my time on the march was uneventful in terms of encounters with the army - the most we saw was a jeep passing by without doing anything. Still a fair bit to tell.

here )
smhwpf: (Worf)
So, we set off from Deir Ballut Wednesday morning. The first thing we had to do was pass the checkpoint. There were some potentially ominous signs. People coming back from Ramallah had said that the soldiers had said things like "Look forward to seeing you tomorrow" and that sort of thing. That morning, increased soldier numbers had been reported, they were clearly waiting for us. We were all in our affinity groups in careful marching order, onions etc. at the ready against tear gas, all ready to link arms and sit down in the road, prepared for the worst. I was humming A los barricados and Scots wha' hae to myself.

And do you know what those gorram soldiers did when when we got to the checkpoint? )

So, all in all a good day. I make that ISM 3 Soldiers 0.

The Internet cafe is closing. Some of this is going to have to be written when I get home.
smhwpf: (Buffy fan)
Deir Ballut )

Day trip to Ramallah )

The Israeli 'Anarchists' )

Phew! Well, another two days out of the way! Next is Buddrus, which deserves an entry to itself.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
An interlude, while the thought is on my mind.

ISM is often described as a "peace movement" and ISMers as "peace activists" (that is, when we're not being described as evil terror-supporting anti-semites.) I don't have too much of a problem with that (the peace movement thing that is), but it's not exactly right.

ISM characterises itself not as a peace-movement, but as a non-violent resistance movement. It is not there to make peace between Israelis and the Palestinians, it is there to support and participate in non-violent Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation.

Now that may not sit entirely comfortably with some people, indeed sometimes it doesn't sit entirely comfortably with me. It sounds... well, partisan, one-sided, aggressive almost. Surely there's wrong on both sides and you should be trying to promote reconciliation, not taking sides?

Well, let's consider one of the best-known exponents of non-violence in modern times, Mahatma Ghandi. Few would question that he was a man of peace.* But to say that his mission was about "making peace" would not really be accurate - he was not about bringing the British and the Indians together, finding common ground, working out a compromise, promoting reconciliation and group hugs, etc. - he was about organising a movement that would resist, disrupt and ultimately end British occupation of India. He was on the side of the Indians against the British.

But, crucially, he was about doing this through non-violence. Which doesn't just mean "not doing violent things", it means maintaining an attitude of respect for the humanity of everyone you interact with, even your enemies, even the British soldiers. And yes, once freedom has been won, your goal is reconciliation and peace. Indeed, the only way that reconciliation and peace can happen is if there is an end to occupation and oppression.

I see the Israel/Palestine conflict as analogous. As I said in a reply to [ profile] neonchameleon, the conflict is often portrayed as far too complicated to understand, and all to do with religion and ancient hatreds, etc., but actually the immediate conflict is quite simple[1], Israel is occupying the Palestinian territories in an extremely oppressive manner, the Palestinians are fighting back, and yes, some of them are doing so using means that I, and most people, would consider morally repugant. But that doesn't change the fact of who is occupying whom. So, yes, ISM is taking sides, it is part of the Palestinian resistance, seeking to end the Occupation, but the resistance it seeks to be part of and to encourage is a non-violent resistance movement. And again, this means not just using non-violent means, but seeking to foster non-violent attitudes, respecting the humanity even of the Israeli soldiers, though that is bloody hard some of the time. And yes, at the end of the road, once the Occupation is ended, is peace and reconciliation.

The fact that this is not just warm words by ISM for public consumption is underlined, I believe, by the - not just welcoming, but real warmth and friendship I have seen between the Palestinians in ISM and in the communities, and the Israeli activists who have joined the struggle against the Wall and the Occupation - Israelis who have stayed in the homes and eaten the bread of Palestinian families, and who have stood, and shed blood, alongside them. No doubt there are some Palestinians who hate all Israelis and want to blow them to bits, there are people like that anywhere, but my experience is that most Palestinians do distinguish between Israeli people and the actions of their government, and do want peace. But with justice.

More on the march later.

[1] It is rather more complicated than that, due to the question of the Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. But I think that is something that could and would be resolved alongside an end to the Occupation, though probably not entirely to the satisfaction of those concerned.

*Yes, I know, I can't talk about Ghandi and non-violence without thinking about that scene from Buffy either.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Back in Jerusalem, having left the march this morning. Tomorrow I go to Bethlehem University, and Wednesday I fly back. Wow, a long time since I managed to make a full update... tried to remember all that has happened, but might get a few things out of order... So where was I...

Qalqilya )
Sunday, including more on Beit Amin )

Monday )

I'll stop there for now. Hopefully more later, but I think I'll be able to do it more justice later, as I'm getting hot and thirsty here. I'm actually staying in Jerusalem tonight - I'd been meaning to stay near Bethlehem to be sure of getting to the University tomorrow, but I was told that there aren't serious problems getting there, so if I set off early I'll be fine.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Carl was released this afternoon after some sustained non-co-operation. In the end he signed release conditions not to demonstrate for 5 days, which is when he is going home anyway. He joined us this evening to say goodbye. He stay with friends in nearby town, then home. Good to see him.
smhwpf: (AbbasSharonLove)
Showdown at Beit Amin checkpoint (near Qalqilya) - we found group of Palestinians were held at Checkpoint. They were waiting for us, soldiers had gassed them then taken IDs so they couldn't leave. We sat down in road demanding release. After a while, they start dragging people away - they grab C who was leading chants. I was behind him, grabbed hold, held onto whatever I could get. Found myself under him. I think they beat him. He cry out. They drag us both away, I lose grip, he still hold me. They surround and separate us. They push me back into group. Take him. Only C arrested. We say still stay. After while, they free most Palestinians. We stay. They say C will be released later. After a while they let all the Palestinians go but one - say "give him lift home". Apparently they often detain 100, 200 at checkpoint for hours. We can do no more. We leave. Score draw. I want to see C. Survivor guilt. I know silly.
smhwpf: (No power)
Not the easiest thing, trying to collect my thoughts from the whole of the past week, sitting here in a sweltering internet cafe in Qalqilya, but I'll do my best. First internet access I've had since leaving Jerusalem - the last post was actually put up by [ profile] evil_nick, to whom thanks, from a text message from me - hence the rather stilted style. I'm afraid this post is jumping around a lot, and probably not very coherent, but I hope it conveys something of the picture. Unfortunately I have no photos to post; I lost my camera in the melee described in my last (proxy) post.

here goes - rather long I'm afraid )
smhwpf: (Buffy Restless)
Just had first taste of tear gas.  We were at a gate in the wall.  Went up to gate, chanting, right by soldiers.  They say go back.  We go. They fire gas.  We disperse.  Wind bad for us.  Stings, eyes run, hard to breathe.  Strong smell reminds you you can breathe!  My body shop perfume popular!  One man injured by fragments from sound grenade and gas.  We regroup.  They follow in jeep.  They gas again.  Also rubber bullets.  Soldiers drop one grenade in jeep, gas selves, ha ha!  We in better position re wind, few caught this time.  Soldiers go.  All safe. At lunch.  No provocation, no stones thrown.  Near Tulkaram.


Jul. 31st, 2004 11:07 pm
smhwpf: (Sandman)
More or less recovered from the shock of my trading incident on Thursday. The last two days we spent in a suburb of Bethlehem, Beit Zahour, training. Some of this recovered the ground of the training I went to in London a few months ago, though it was good to have it reinforced, and some of it was new. It was led by several Palestinian ISM people. ISM is co-ordinated on the ground by Palestinians and long-term international volunteers, while most of the internationals come and go for longer or shorter periods.

There were 24 of us trainees, mostly from Europe, a fair few from Britain; one from the US, a Canadian (a fellow Hogtowner to [ profile] missnegativity), and one from Mauritius. A range of ages, mostly I would guess 20s-early 30s, but a fair few older.

Particularly interesting was a session on a history of Palestinian resistance, focussing on the non-violent aspects of resistance, which are not what is generally focussed on. What tends to be forgotten is that for the first 20 years after Israel's conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, there was no violence from the occupied Palestinians (unlike the Diaspora groups such as the PLO), and indeed very little active resistance. The way they saw it is that they were "steadfasting" - staying put, not leaving in the way the Palestinians did (or were forced to) in 1967. This was all the while Israel was building settlements on confiscated land, and imprisoning people in large numbers; in the first 20 years, there were 600,000 cases of imprisonment from a population of 2 million, a very high proportion of whom were children, and where women were hardly ever arrested.

Of course in 1987 the first Intifada (uprising) started, which was essentially civil-based non-co-operation - refusal to pay taxes, obey the Israeli authorities, etc. It was not completely non-violent, but the "violence" was essentially limited to stone-throwing by kids, which when you consider the amount of gear the soldiers are wearing, is mostly symbolic violence. Certainly there were no suicide bombers then. And this rebellion actually is what brought Israel to the negotiating table.

But enough of the general history, don't want to hog this machine too long.

One of the trainers, G., had a personal story from that time. He became an activist when he was 6 years old, during the first Intifada. It was Christmas Day, (he's a Christian), and he was playing with his present round the Christmas tree, when Israeli soldiers came in, turned the place upside down, trashed the Christmas tree and his present. The next day he was out throwing stones, and within a few years he was onto Molotov cocktails. He subsequently trained as a paramedic; he said that it was when his cousin was killed a couple of years ago, and he saw what the gunshot had done to his body, he decided he just didn't want to do that to another person, and opted for non-violent resistance, joining ISM.

Other sessions covered the various necessary knowledge, legal, cultural etc.; and a fair number of role-plays on non-violence, quick consensus decision making, planning actions, and so forth. Very helpful, illustrating the sort of things we were doing wrong in the simulations, and how to get them right in practice. What training is for.

The plan for our stay is rather different from the usual; we will be joining a mass march along the route of the Wall Israel is building through the Palestininan territories. We leave tomorrow morning. I think there will be various non-violent direct actions along the way, but a different setting when we're in large numbers for a big, media-covered event, rather than just in small groups in villages. We have affinity groups for the march though, as it's good to have a reasonably small group you can work with closely and trust, rather than just being part of the mass.

Because we will be largely staying in villages along the way, rather than in main towns, I am not sure whether I will have many opportunities for internet access. I will do my best though, and will try to get the odd text through to people whose journal is read by many of my flist.

Better let someone else on.
smhwpf: (Me)
For a while it looked like it might be a close run thing, but in the end it was not too much of a problem getting past the immigration people. I was asked the expected questions ("What is your purpose here", "Where are you planning to go", "Why are you coming to Israel now", etc.), and I think I gave a fairly good performance. I treated it as acting rather than lying, not to hide the moral issue from myself, but simply to make it something I vaguely know how to do rather than something scary. But the airport woman didn't like the fact that my passport was somewhat mangled, basically from spending too much time in my pocket. (Which I explained, this being perfectly true). So she called another guy, who asked me all the same questions, and a few more, and they asked me if I knew anyone in Israel, which was good as I do know an academic colleague here, and eventually she stamped my visa, but then sent me on to anotherwoman to ask all the same questions, but when she finally said "enjoy your stay", I breathed a sigh of relief.

what followed illustrates the perils of peddling in falsehoods. At least for me )

Still, eventually they let me go and took me to the Faisal, where I have met some of the other ISMers, and went out with a few of them. We're up early tomorrow, off to somewhere near Bethlehem to have our training. And so, poorer but hopefully wiser, to bed.
smhwpf: (Owl)
Thanks for the good wishes, hugs, thoughts, prayers, blessed be's and the like everyone!

Trying to while away the night in Vienna airport till my connecting flight. I don't tend to sleep well in such settings, so obviously head for the internet! (But I did start scribbling some verses of the Tales of the Slayers folk ballad I've got an idea going round in my head for, and look a bit more through my Arabic phrase book (which I'd probably better ditch before getting on the plane))

Time almost up. Better go...
smhwpf: (Giles party weasel)
Coach to Heathrow leaves in an hour, flight at 7.30, stopover overnight in Vienna (will sleep in airport), then plane to Tel-Aviv tomorrow morning, and thence bus or taxi to Jerusalem.

Your prayers, however conceived, are appreciated. Truth be told, I'm not so much nervous about being shot (very unlikely) or teargassed (rather likely), as about being useless. Though I do know, at least intellectually, that simply being there and seeing and hearing is the biggest part of it. I think I shall feel a lot more confident when I meet up with all the other activists in Jerusalem.

I shall, as far as possible, be keeping this journal up-to-date while I'm there.


smhwpf: (Default)

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