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(en) Freedom 6324 Dec. 14, 2002 - Palestine: an eyewitness report

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 13 Jan 2003 09:32:47 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

"This moment is both an opportunity and a test for all parties
in the Middle East: an opportunity to lay the foundations of
future peace; a test to show who is serious about peace and
who is not. The choice here is stark and simple. The Bible
says, 'I have set before you life and death; therefore, choose
life'. The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to
choose peace, and hope, and life." - George W. Bush, 25th
June 2002

Whoever wrote these words for Bush carefully avoided the
fact that the US donates more aid to Israel than to any other
country on the planet, something like $15 billion a year.
Despite Israel's continued refusal to recognise both UN
resolution 242 and the international calls for the withdrawal
of its troops from the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967,
the US hasn't bombed Israel once. Yet it's been very busy
bombing dozens of other countries who've done nothing to
contravene international law.
As many anarchist writers attest, the difference between the
words of liberal democracies and their deeds are often vast,
but in the case of the USA the sheer hypocrisy of Bush's
'serious' call for peace is staggering. Above all, bringing the
Bible into the argument is hardly a helpful contribution to a
conflict that's prolonged by a fanatical adherence to
interpretations of ancient religious texts.
Gunfire, live ammunition, plastic bullets, sound bombs,
heavy machine guns, shells, tear gas, tanks, jeeps, Armoured
Personnel Carriers, soldiers, checkpoints, collective
punishments, demolished houses, police brutality, prison,
armed teenage Zionist settlers who terrorise olive pickers for
kicks - these are just a few aspects of the turmoil that
constitutes everyday life for the Palestinian people, thanks to
fanaticism like this.
Some claim two cultures are strangling each other and no
side is better or worse off than the other, but this is plain
wrong. I've seen Tel Aviv. There are no checkpoints there.
There are tidy streets that haven't been ripped up by
bulldozers. There's employment. There are bars, open shops,
cinemas and theatres. There's no occupational army, with
tanks on the streets that kill, detain, humiliate, beat and
arrest people every day.
There's tension there of course, but it's the tension of a
population that won't listen. It's the self-destructive tension
of blind arrogance, bred by the security of knowing that,
whatever you do, the biggest and most powerful imperial
power in the world will always look after you. Israel is the
spoilt brat of geo-politics, facing the resistance of a more
restrained, civilised neighbour that refuses to give in. The
Palestinian civilisation may have been driven into the mire of
poverty, martyrdom and death, but it won't leave its
homeland or give up its claim to it.
As a confirmed anarchist, I have a deep suspicion of
'democratic' representatives. My suspicions are visibly
justified here. The Palestinians are attacked from both sides,
by the murderous violence and daily oppression of the
brattish Sharon government and by the ineptitude and
corruption of the Palestinian Authority (PA) that continues to
tax these people and do little to help them in return. Granted
it has its hands tied, but it could at least try to help people in
their daily lives.
More is done for social welfare by the most extreme Islamist
militias than by the Palestinian Authority, and with less
corruption too. Yes, Arafat has the support of many middle
class Palestinians who are part of a relative elite, but talk to
people in the refugee camps of Nablus or Jenin, and you'll
most likely hear a different story.
Arafat's deputy said last week that the call for an armed
struggle was a 'mistake'. This judgement came rather late. In
the last two years, there have been nearly 3,000 Palestinians
killed and tens of thousands injured. Most of these have been
between the ages of 12 and 21. They were nearly all children
or young people.
It was also an arrogant statement because it assumed that,
without this call, the people would simply have done nothing.
A call for non-violent resistance, I believe, would have vastly
helped the Palestinian cause abroad, but it wasn't made.
Instead, as each martyr operation has taken place,
non-violent resistance has been sidelined in media coverage.
In fact, non-violent resistance is the norm here. Most people
resist the occupation in this way, breaking curfew, refusing
intimidation, remaining calm under fire.
The Palestinian non-violent direct action movement stretches
back to the 1930s and beyond. But who ever hears about it in
Britain? Instead the PA is portrayed (as Sharon likes it to be)
as the grand puppet master of the Palestinian people, urging
them into violent conflict with a giant nuclear power. The
truth is that no Palestinian government will ever be in control
of the Palestinian people to that extent. Statehood of this kind
is simply another form of occupation, and the Palestinians
always resist occupations. They are skilled in this because
they've been occupied for centuries.

Implicit anarchism
An anarchist recognition of authority from the bottom up is
evident everywhere here. The communities of Balata or
Asker camps are stronger models than any nation state for a
non-hierarchical social organisation. People gain respect, not
by wealth, but by what they do. The honour is given to
volunteers, medical relief workers, builders and martyrs.
The rich Palestinian businessman whose palace, built before
the present intifada, still stands untouched beside the bombed
out chaos and rubble of south Nablus, has no respect here,
because he's done nothing for the people. He has palaces all
over the Arab World, so he doesn't come here any more.
Meanwhile, his wealth still protects his property from both
Israeli and Palestinian outrage. Below this manifestation of
extreme wealth lies the central checkpoint between
Jerusalem and Amman Street. This place cuts the city in half
and is the site of regular humiliations and violence against the
people by the Israeli army. It happens every day.
The curfew is broken every day now too, though six months
ago no one dared to venture out. People were killed in the
street and left unreached for days, their bodies eaten by the
birds. Now, gradually, the mass resistance of the 250,000
people of Nablus has come to make the curfew look like a
joke. The soldiers punish people - perhaps fifty a day - but
they've given up shooting them. Shooting didn't work.
Despite all the murders by the Israeli Occupation Force
(IOF), you'll find more graffiti of hate on the subway walls of
a deprived London suburb than on the walls of the Balata or
Aska refugee camps in Nablus, where dozens of young
martyrs have come from and where the first intifada showed
its strongest presence. The walls are filled instead with
memorial posters to these young people. The city of Nablus is
one huge memorial, a city mourning, resisting, but refusing
to hate its oppressor.
The Israelis want to see the hate so they can feel justified in
what they do here. But instead, the people of Nablus remain
calm, waiting for the right moment to act, in the most
effective way, even if they have to die. They continue their
lives in this way. The taxi drivers continue driving through
the hazardous streets, at risk of being shot at from every
street corner, carrying people to and from military
checkpoints where their taxis are often confiscated and made
into roadblocks for a whole day. The ambulance drivers
continue to face detention and ambulance searches, as they
try to reach victims of the latest IOF murder.
The most visible resistance is from the children who chance
their luck in mass stone throwing at tanks, which respond
with live ammunition. If there were an Olympic event of
throwing stones, the Palestinian under 16s would win gold,
silver and bronze every time. I've been in the Nablus region
for five weeks, and I haven't yet witnessed a Palestinian
fighter shooting at the Israeli army. But I've seen the Israeli
army, settlers and police abuse, brutalise, humiliate and fire
at children, school boys and girls, men, women, old people,
vehicles, homes, cars and even donkeys. All the courage
shown by international activists doesn't come close to the
courage of the Palestinian people in their continual resistance
to occupation by the fourth largest army on the planet.
My British nationality is an issue here. The British are seen
by many as responsible for the creation of the state of Israel, a
state the Ottoman empire refused to grant to the Zionist
Movement in the nineteenth century. The Balfour
Declaration of the 1920s, in which the British government
committed itself to the establishment of a Zionist state, is one
of the most destructive documents in modern history, a
promise that's been more horrifically realised than any speech
by George W. Bush ever will be.
Given this history, the British sycophancy towards the US
government doesn't help its reputation one iota. This is why I
came here. How can I live with the stolen riches Britain has -
riches gained from hundreds of years of colonialism, theft
and murder - and not do something to help the people my
government's robbed? To write about it isn't enough.
That's all the present governments do. They won't act to give
the Palestinians their freedom. They won't promise anything
without guarantee of subservience to their globalising project.
After all of the history the Palestinians have endured at the
hands of the British and American superpowers, why should
they even listen? So I act directly, non-governmentally, and
not just with words in an English so mired by the history of
imperialism. I must help these brilliant people retrieve what's
been taken from them.
Palestinians have always chosen life, peace and hope like
everyone else. The problem is that these choices are being
taken from them every day by the bloody, murderous
monstrosities of super-powered state terrorists who leave
them no choice but martyrdom - a hope for a better life than
this one, but only after death.
Ceri Gibbons
Ceri is currently working with the International Solidarity
Movement. In November he was detained by Israeli troops
for several days. He writes from Nablus.

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