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(en) Palestine-Israel, Kadum, Alt. Media, "If there is violence today, it will not be started by us" report by Adam Keller

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 19 Feb 2005 22:49:56 +0100 (CET)


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The road to Kufr Kadum is long and complicated. We change taxis
several times along the way from Tel-Aviv, and pick up international
activists at a junction filled with a medley grafitti and half-torn posters
(?Free Palestine? in English and Arabic, ?Down with the occupation?
in Hebrew but also ?Death to Arabs and traitors? and ?It is G-d?s will:
Eretz Yisrael belongs to the Jewish People!? and overall, a giant poster
with the smiling face of Palestinian President Abu Mazen).
An army jeep passes in the opposite direction, taking no interest. Then
at Hija begins the ordeal which Kadum inhabitants must endure daily:
going over the bare track, up hills and down dales, with the car
jumping and jouncing and shaking at every pothole and strewn rock
along the way. ?At least, today the track is passable at all? says our
guide. ?You should have seen this place a week ago, after the rains.
There was a real lake, exactly where we pass now.?

Finally we get to the center of Kadum, at the town hall and post office
which form the modest civic center of this 4200-strong community.
We alight ? some twenty-five activists, mostly young anarchists with
t-shirts bearing such slogans as ?The Wall must fall!? and ?Psychiatric
discharge means neither shooting first nor crying afterwards?. Several
Machsom Watch women from Jerusalem arrive by a different route,
walking much of the way, together with the irrepressible Yafit-Jamila
Bisso who came from Syria some ten years ago and whose fluent
Arabic makes her a great asset in such contacts. And there is the usual
leavening of international activists: Dorothee, a French activist residing
in Switzerland, who had now lived long enough at Hares to call it ?my
village?; Fatima, a Muslim from South Africa; two inhabitants of
Stockholm who belong to different international volunteer groups and
who met each other for the first time here, in the heart of the West
Bank?
Palestinian activists hasten to offer us cold drinks, welcome on this
unnaturally warm winter day.

The vendor refuses to take payment for his falafel balls in pita bread.
The mayor and his deputy are already waiting to welcome us, discuss
details of the coming action and fill us in on the village situation. ?It is
up to you to decide how far to go with the army and settlers. We have
come to offer our solidarity? says the anarchist Yonathan, veteran of
countless such actions in the past two years. ?If there is violence today,
it will not be started by us? answers mayor As?ad Shtawe, a rather
young man who got to his position out of being a grassroots Fatah
activist. Municipal secretary Abu Arab fills in details on the current
situation.

We already knew in general that the settlement of Kdumim has been
created astride the only paved road connecting Kadum to the outside
world, that the settler security guards deny them passage and the army
fully backs the settlers. But we hear more details of what it means in
daily life: ?The fare in service taxi along the paved road was six
Shekels (about $1.5). Now, a taxi going along the mountain tracks
where the car is frequently damaged and needs repairs is asking for 26
Shekels ($6.5). For many of us, especially the unemployed, traveling
outside the village has become a luxury they can hardly afford. We
have become prisoners! Since Sharm A-Sheikh, the army removed the
blockage on many other villages. We are happy for them, but why are
we discriminated? Just because the Kdumim settlers have a lot of pull
with the Sharon government??

The town square fills up, and the procession forms. Young and old
men, some in working clothes and others in neat suits. A contingent of
women in the traditional muslim headscarves, and younger women
with their heads bare and the brassards of the Palestiniasn Medical
Relief Committees. Banners in Arabic and English are held aloft, with
some Palestinian national flags. "We welcome our Israeli friends who
came to share this struggle with us", came the announcement in
Hebrew over the loudspeaker. Many Palestinian marchers glued the
round two-flag sticker of Gush Shalom on their shirts. From an open
courtyard, a matrone with a brood of children behind her were waiving
cheerfully.

Soon we can see the pseudo-European red roofs of the Kdumim
settlement - a bit incongruous for people who pretend to be the direct
continuation of biblical ancestors. In between, some twenty soldiers
block passage, strung in a ragged line across the road and into the olive
groves on both sides. This is the moment of decision: going forward
would likely be answered with a volley of teargas or worse. It could
easily have happened, when the village youths started surging towards
the soldiers, chanting "Open Our Only Road!" But mayor and
councillors succeed in making them halt and sit down. With the
soldiers looking on impassively, mayor Shtawe takes the microphone.
"We have not come here for violence, we did come here to deliver a
clear message: the closing of our road is illegal, immoral, intolerable.
We start the campaign today, it will not end until the road is open."

Gamila Bisso speaks first in Arabic, but shifting suddenly to Hebrew:
"Dear soldiers, and also dear settlers listening from your windows. I
am speaking to you on behalf of the Israelis here in this demonstration,
standing shoulder to shoulder with our Palestinian brothers and sisters.
We have not come here to attack you. We do demand that you open
the road; that you let pupils go to their schools and sick people to the
hospital. We Israelis claim to be living in a democratic state, an
enlightened state of law. Segregating roads, separate roads for Jews
and for Arabs - a good road for Jews, and a very bad one for Arabs -
this is not democracy. It is Apartheid."


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