Tuesday, January 23, 2007

home invasions and arrests

Reading about these things while I'm back in the U.S. makes me so angry. It sounds like it's getting worse by the day and I'm all the way over here...
After being there though, I can't just stop reading the news about what happens there. I have to pay attention. I hope that those of you who have been reading my blog feel at least a little bit of that attachment. I hope you are wondering and concerned about what is happening to these people...I hope you keep reading about it even though I am no longer there.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

in the news

Here's a news article about what's been going on in Hebron/Tel Rumeida.


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Back in San Francisco

I got back to San Francisco the day before yesterday.

Getting through the airport wasn't as terrible as I thought it might be. But, after going through security, I sat down to eat some pizza which I reluctantly bought (I didn't want to support Israeli business, especially overpriced business at the Tel Aviv airport, but I realized I was extremely hungry, because I'd kind of forgotten to eat in all the hectic-ness of getting ready to leave). I looked across the food court to another restaurant called "Cumin: A Taste of Israel." There were pictures of shawarma and falafel sandwiches on the sign. The name was written in English in the middle and in Hebrew on either side. I don't know why, but the sign triggered all the anger I think I must have been repressing during the trip. It began simply as anger at cultural appropriation- how dare they call this a taste of Israel? Falafel and Shewarma are Palestinian, not Israeli. I thought "A taste of Israel" would have been a sign better suited to the checkpoint on the way into the airport, or one of the two stations where they search you on the way in (once before you get your ticket from the ticket counter and once again afterwards). As I let myself dwell on these thoughts which I'd been pushing away for most of my trip in order to stay in the moment and be as effective as possible, the anger expanded. I was angry at the people around me for speaking Hebrew. I was angry at them for being Israeli. I was angry at myself for being angry at the people around me, because I knew it wasn't their fault, and that my anger should be channeled towards the State of Israel, not its people, and not its language. Anger at individuals speaking the language they were raised to speak is not productive. I knew this. Yet I couldn't stop the feelings. I sat and ate my pizza as the occasional tear slid down my face. All the metaphors often used to describe anger: boiling, hot, explosive (metaphor, remember, metaphor) -- they suddenly all made sense to me. I gathered myself together and went to the gate. The anger subsided to an extent, but it was still resting in the back of my mind. As the plane took off, it was overshadowed for a moment by the feeling that I was leaving, and I wasn't ready. I was not done there.

I got home exhausted, and immediately took a nap.

When I woke up in San Francisco, my first response was something like denial. I really felt like if I left the house and went around the corner, I would be down the road from, say, the international house in Tel Rumeida.
Each time I did leave the house, I was almost surprised not to have to go through a checkpoint, and not to see any soldiers on the streets. It's amazing how quickly things like that become normalized. Suddenly it felt like a privilege to be able to move freely when going from my house, to the market to buy vegetables, and back again. Compared to life in Palestine, it is a privilege. But it shouldn't be.
It took about a day and a half before the reverse culture shock started to hit me. I was standing in line at Trader Joe's, and I'm not sure if it was the massive amounts of people, the over-abundance of stuff for sale all in one place, or just a random coincidence of timing, but suddenly, I felt an intense wave of anger come over me. It was different than the anger I felt at the airport, because I felt removed. I felt far away from the source of my anger. Again, there was a rational voice in my head telling me that I wasn't far away at all, because Israel relies on funding from the United States for its army and thus for its existence. But I wanted to be back there. I am torn between exhaustion and wanting to rest, and frustration, wanting to keep acting and resisting.
I haven't been able to talk about much other than Palestine since I've been back. I didn't realize while I was there exactly how much I had learned about the daily realities of the occupation. I've spent a lot of time so far describing checkpoints and other restrictions on movement for Palestinians, explaining all sorts of absurd Israeli laws, the Wall, everything. People are shocked. I think a lot of people here don't realize the realities over there, even if they are "aware" of the issues. I'm glad people want to listen, because as I said, I haven't been able to stop talking about it.
Now I'm trying to collect my thoughts, make a plan for returning when I have the money, figure out the details of the video work i want to do when I go back...

I don't know if anyone will keep reading this since I am no longer in Palestine, but I hope to type up something more detailed about the situation in Tel Rumeida and elsewhere in Palestine, since I realized I never actually did that, I just started talking about my personal experiences with things, and my observations.
Also, some of the kids' drawings from Tel Rumeida are going to be displayed at a bookstore in San Francisco. I will post that when it happens as well.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Demo at Huwarra Checkpoint

Today, around 11am, a group of almost 100 people gathered at Huwarra checkpoint as a part of 30 Days Against Borders, organized by the Palestinian Body for Peace, Dialogue and Equality (HASM ) and other organizations. Some Palestinians, mostly children, dressed as Native Americans in order to draw parallels between U.S. genocide against Native Americans and Israeli genocide against Palestinians. Demonstrators carried signs including one which said "Checkpoints destroy Palestinian Life." Other signs were addressed to Condoleeza Rice, who is currently in the region, including one which said "The Indian wars are not over Mrs RICE….We are still here too!!" Palestinians, Internationals, and Israelis chanted and demonstrated for about an hour in front of the checkpoint, where many people were waiting to cross.

The parallel with Native Americans is interesting. I think it's an important parallel to make, although I admit I have questions about the way people decided to make it (the outfits were definitely based on stereotypes, not reality).

The checkpoint itself was unlike any I have seen before, even the one in Bethlehem, which was really extreme. People were packed in, waiting for permission to pass. The soldiers would open the gate, let a few people out, then close it again. And for what?
I have met various other anti-Zionist Jews who said that there first time seeing a checkpoint like this they were reminded immediately of photos they'd seen of the Holocaust, where people waited behind walls and bars, packed in like cattle, glancing out, wishing for freedom. I don't know if that would have been my response had I not already heard this parallel made, but I too was struck by the similarity.

It makes me so angry. Sometimes, it feels as though the Jews took notes from their oppressors, from the people who tried to kill them, in order to use the same techniques in the ethnic cleansing of another people. How? How do they not see what they have become? Or do they see? Do they just not care? Where are the rest of the dissident Jewish voices? There is no excuse for this. There is no excuse for not speaking out against it, with all the voice we have.

There is an organization here, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions with a slogan : "Don't say we did not know."


Here are some photos of Jenin...

During the bbq, which there are pictures of (click on the link!), a family member of the friends I was staying with was arrested by the IOF. We only found out later, when we were talking about the situation over tea and arguila....
He was arrested for being a member of Hamas.

Someone told me when I first arrived that every day, you think you're seeing the worst of it, and the next day, you see something worse.

I don't think I've seen the worst of it. But here, you can be arrested just for being involved in a political organization. One of the people I spent time with in Jenin spent three years in an Israeli prison just for contacting a leftist political organization. I don't think this needs any words of reflection. I think it speaks for itself. A lot of the events here speak for themselves.


photos photos photos

More pictures of Tel Rumeida...

we have fun here too, walla...

Some photos of fun, most of which involves arguila....

community alternatives

I'm waiting for my photos to upload right now and I wanted to take this time to reflect on something I've been thinking about while I've been here.

In the U.S. I talk with people a lot about how to deal with violence within communities, without relying on the State, prisons, or police. Usually I talk about this in terms of sexual violence but I think it applies to other acts of violence as well. Here in Palestine, I have seen some very concrete manifestations of such alternatives which have taught me a lot.

In Tel Rumeida, there is no Palestinian police force. The only official "authorities" are the Israeli police (border police and regular) and the IOF (the soldiers). Of course the Palestinians cannot rely on any of these forces for protection. Yet Tel Rumeida is a community, and this sense of community extends to the rest of al Xhaleel (Hebron) as well.

One international woman arrived one evening in Al Xhaleel from Al Quds by herself. Her bag was stolen from her. Not knowing what to do, she called a couple of our Palestinian friends from the region. They arrived immediately and asked around, according to the description of the person who had stolen this woman's bag. They were able to figure out who it was almost immediately. They called his family and explained that this woman, who was here in solidarity with the Palestinian people, was like family to them, and that anything anyone did to her was like doing it to their own families. The family of the thief was extremely apologetic and promised to have the bag back to her with all of its contents within 2 minutes. Our Palestinian friends brought this woman to the house of this family where she retrieved her bag- with every cent and everything else still inside. All of this happened in less than two hours.
I have never heard of a police force as effective as this.

I have more examples if anyone wants to talk to me about it, but since they're more personal (not for me, but for friends) I don't feel like it's okay to post them here. In general though, I think that the examples prove that community systems of holding one another accountable can work incredibly well and are much more effective at this than any State based solution I have ever seen.

Friday, January 12, 2007

a few more days

I keep saying that I need to send out updates more often so they don't have to be as long, and then I keep not doing it. Now I only have a few more days here.

I'm in Ramallah now. Have been many places in the past few days.

The day before I left Tel Rumeida there was an action on Shuhada Street. Shuhada Street was once a part of the main market area in Tel Rumeida, but the shops on that road were shut down because of the settlement. For six years, soldiers told Palestinians it was forbidden to walk on
Shuhada Street. Recently, it was discovered that according to a military court order, it is actually not forbidden. About a week ago, a couple of Palestinians walked down the street and were able, because of the order, to convince the soldiers to accompany them (in order to
avoid "trouble," or really, attacks from the settlers) rather than prevent them from walking. This seemed like a victory at the time, but immediately afterwards, the very next day, soldiers began - again- to forbid Palestinians from walking down Shuhada Street, despite the court order, claiming that there was a new court order, or that they had never heard of such an order, etc.
On Monday, a group of Palestinians decided to walk down Shuhada Street again, holding photocopies of the court order allowing them to pass, accompanied by members of the Israeli press and a few israeli activists.
Internationals documented the event. Despite the press coverage and a rather large presence of internationals and israelis, the Palestinians were not allowed to walk down their own street. Of course it is not over, and they will try again. I guess this is the issue of hope again.
While the Palestinians and their allies stood, waiting to walk, blocked by multiple army and police jeeps and lines of soldiers, a group of settlers walked out of one of the buildings and walked, down the middle of the road, until they were out of sight.

This sight made it very clear exactly what the soldiers were there to do, and whose rights they were trying to protect. One settler man came up and started yelling at and threatening the Palestinians. One of the Palestinian women said to this settler man, as he told the Palestinians they were all terrorists, that if he would come in peace, he was welcome to come to her house. "I just want peace," she said, and she met his threats with an invitation. It was a powerful conversation. I think I have footage of it which I can share with folks when I come home, which is soon. This struggle over Shuhada Street might seem very small. It is just one street. Yet it is significant. Small steps. One street can mean a lot to the people whose street it is.

After Tel Rumeida, I stopped in Al Quds and then headed to Jenin to visit friends of a friend. It felt incredibly luxurious to be sleeping in a bed which was not just a foam mattress on the floor,
under blankets which were actually clean. These people took amazing care of us (my friend and I). They fed us wonderful food and gave us lots of coffee and tea, and showed us around town. And of course, the conversations here are always extremely interesting. People who hesitate at first, worrying that their English is not good, will ramble on and on about their political beliefs once you start asking questions. Of course I love this. I have never spent so much time listening and not speaking, and I have never learned so much.

Today I came back to Ramallah and went to the protest in Bil'in against the wall. Less tear gas this time, which was good. People tried to block the soldiers from driving their jeeps into the town, which they sometimes like to do after the protests, by sitting down in the road.
Again, this gains meaning when you take a step back for a moment. It is their village. What they were doing was sitting on their road. The soldiers started beating people and injured some.
(I'm fine, don't worry). The jeeps drove by and the other soldiers kept trying to push us further back away from the wall and into the village. Sometimes it really feels like a battle over territory. Over land. Of course, only one side is armed, so it is nothing like an equal battle.

Yet, here is a note of hope. A friend told me this story, it happened to her. She was with a family in a rural village and a woman picked up something (my friend did not know what it was) covered in many layers of thorns and sharp skin. The woman peeled away the layers of thorns and inside was a delicious fruit.
She said to my friend, "This is why they will never defeat us. They don't know the land like we do." And it is true:

The Israelis do not know how to find fruit inside of thorns. Because of this, the land will never really belong to them.

Things here are always incredibly simple and incredibly complex at exactly the same time.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

listen to the children

A woman from ISM is teaching weekly art classes to the children of Tel Rumeida. These children have spent their whole lives in an occupied city, with soldiers and tanks constantly in the streets, and with settlers across the road, who often throw rocks and eggs at them. Most have suffered violence from either soldiers, settlers, or both. The children's assignment on this day was to draw a picture about their life in Tel Rumeida...take a look. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Or rather, I think the children speak quite poignantly through their drawings.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

hope and resistance

Still in Tel Rumeida. The weather is terrible, but it's supposed to be better tomorrow. And on a positive note, it keeps the settlers inside so they are slightly less violent towards the Palestinians, which is good.

Watching peoples' lives here, I've been thinking a lot about hope- how important it is, and how people here always seem to have some left over, no matter what happens. I think maybe it is because here there is no time to lose hope. You can't. It's not just like you can't because then life would be too miserable- it's that here, hope, and living, and resistance are all intertwined and to give up one you must also give up the others. And you can't give up living, so you can't give up the others.

At the same time, I am starting to understand the desperation of people here on a different level. And how desperation and hope are not opposites, but really, to have desperation, you need to have hope, because you are desperate, hoping, for things to be different. I mean daily life for Palestinians includes checkpoints, getting asked where they're going when they're just leaving their house to go to the market, being held while an occupying force checks their ids, in the rain...the way it's standard to handcuff and blindfold people who are being detained, not even arrested, just detained...the soldiers and tanks in the streets. Doing interviews, everyone knows someone who has experienced violence from the settlers and the soldiers, if they haven't experienced any themselves, which they probably have. And then, on top of all this, they invade Ramallah. I know I already wrote about this, but this is a reflection rather than a report. On top of all this daily harassment, there is an invasion. They bulldozed cars and shops in the central square for no reason at all. And killed 4 people. And injured more. On top of it all. And then when life goes back to normal, it is not really normal at all.

The other day on Shuhada Street, the street which Palestinians walked on about a week ago for the first time in years, we tried to go through on our way back from a tour of the old city with someone's mom. Our Palestinian friend asked the soldiers if we could pass through Shuhada Street, which was the direct route from where we were to our flat.
Soldier "Where are you from?"
Friend "I'm from here"
"So you're Palestinian?"
"Yes, I'm Palestinian. But they are from U.S., Austria, South Africa, Spain..."
"South Africa? I'm from South Africa."
"She is from South Africa."
"I don't know her."
"So can we pass?"
"You are Palestinian?"
"Yes, I'm from here."
"Palestinians cannot pass on Shuhada Street."
"Can they pass?"
"Yes, they all can pass."
Of course we all turned around and went back, the long way, the way we came. Everyone can walk on this road except Palestinians. And it is their road.

I should send out more updates so they are shorter.

A couple of Israeli activists stayed here right now. Israeli anarchists to be more specific. One of them was what people refer to as a "lifesteyle anarchist." She was talking about activism, and how she thought people shouldn't be expected to be involved in active resistance, and that living "without hurting anyone," (i.e. being vegan, farming organically, etc) is enough. I've heard this argument before in the U.S., and it frustrates me, but this was different. She started talking about her family. Saying, "we are farmers, my parents just take care of their land, they are good people" talking about her friends who "live outside society" and farm "their" land on a kibbutz. At the end she says "I don't think it's fair to expect people to all be activists, these people aren't hurting anybody, they're just taking care of their land---" I interrupt "But it's not their land!" Tension rises. "Where are they supposed to go?" "I don't know where they should go. But no it is not enough for them to farm this land. Farming stolen land is not a form of resistance." But, the U.S. is also stolen land. So I think this logic can be extended.

I've been thinking a lot about that. Comparisons with the U.S. Here, colonization is just at a different point. It is towards the beginning and it is more directly militarized. But it is the same process. And it has the same goals.

Alright, that is all for now. Back to smoking narguila (hookah)....citrus flavor, mmm....

"enemy countries"

A friend who I'm with got here through "birth right" (the program that
pays for Jewish people to go to "Israel" for free). She came planning
to do ISM, but did birthright in order to get here for free. She got
a cell phone through a company called Israel phones while on her trip.
When we got to Hebron, her phone stopped working and she called the
company to find out why.

R (my friend): Why did my phone get shut off?
Phone Operator: I don't know. Did you make any calls to Jordan?
R: no.
Phone Operator: Egypt?
R: no.
Phone Operator: Saudi Arabia?
R: no.
Phone Operator: Well, what about Ramallah?
R: Yes, I've probably made calls to Ramallah....
Phone Operator: Oh, well then that's why.
R: What's why?
Phone Operator: Your phone got shut off because you called Ramallah.
R: Why?
Phone Operator: Because you're not allowed to call Ramallah.
R: Why?
Phone Operator: Because, you know...you cant make calls to
uhhh...enemy countries.

Wow. Well, at least the phone operator acknowledged Palestinian
Statehood, right?

That's all for now.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Click here to see photos: