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Gaza and the anti-apartheid wall action week

Dear friends:

In Bethlehem area, we face colonial settlements and apartheid walls on three sides (north, west, south) and east is a closed military zone. A week ago an activist suggested we simply break the wall with the help of internationals (ala what happened in Gaza). Two days later I had a dream of doing precisely that. My dream was focused on feelings about doing such a thing as we were doing it; feelings of fear, anxiety, thrill, love, hope, trepidations, sadness and joy and more. Every morning when I get up I see the colony of Har Homa (built on the lands of Jabal AbuGhneim) and the meandering "geder hahafrada" (Hebrew name meaning "wall of segregation") that goes in to maximize the land grab while minimizing the number of Palestinians included on the "Israeli side". Funny though how objects here including land and air become associated with tribal Jewish identity. Sharon once exhorted settlers to grab the hills because "everything we grab will become ours and everything we don't will be theirs". The "us" he was referring to is the Zionist conception of the Jewish people (as an ethnicity and a "nation" not a religion). The "them" is the "Arabs" as Zionists refer to us trying to avoid the use of the term Palestinians lest we are reminded that we are the natives in Palestine and that there is something called Palestine. But of course the land and nature is no more "Jewish" than it became Roman under the Roman Empire. For the most part, native people and creatures here try to make as normal a life as possible under the abnormal circumstances of colonialism and attempts to reconfigure their lives. Just as I gaze at the wall separating me from Jerusalem (a mere five miles) and the lights turning off in the settelment, I also see other images of the morning: Palestinian children with dark black hair, olive skin color, and pressed uniforms heading to school, our neighbor opening his car repair shop, a guy with a NY yankees cap selling sesame cakes, a municipal truck collecting garbage, our cats and dog begging for food, and a dove gently landing on the olive tree. Life and hence hope, I think to myself, always finds a way. I get to the university at 8 AM and already it is full of young students (and I mean full that it is hard to walk around not like US universities). Apparent normality in an abnormal situation, I think to myself.

I had shared earlier with you a poem by a young person. Today I saw an email message forwarded from a young person that is also worth reading. This teenager reflects on how "lucky" she is to live in Ramallah rather than Gaza. This is a sad commentary on the state of affairs: when occupied Ramallah appears so much better than occupied Gaza. But this 15 year old has basically not even lived under the more normal occupation I lived under when I was her age. In those "good old days" of the early military occupation (1970s and 1980s), a Ramallah resident (or Bethlehem resident) could drive and go swim in the Dead Sea, or the Red Sea or the Meduiterranean sea. Our parents could also move and work anywhere. All these are now off limits to us (rare exeption given with special permits that few are able to get: usually collaborators, government officials, or wealthy businessmen that normalize with Israel). So I wonder if a few years from now we will also look at "the good old days" of today when Ramallah residents could visit and work in Bethlehem but not Jerusalem. Our Israeli friend Dr. Jeff Halper wrote an article this week in which he argues that apartheid in South Africa would never "warehouse" people like Israel is "warehousing" us the Palestinian people. But this an evolving system and (while it could get better with our colective efforts and resistance), it could get worse. I followed the article of this 10th grader with an action alert to organize in your community a meaningful activity for the 6th International "week against the apartheid wall".
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A Girl from Gaza Identified by her ID
By: Haneen Zaqout, Grade 10, Friends School- Ramallah

We all spend a lifetime trying to figure out what makes someone who they are, and what defines them. Is it their characteristics, appearances, or behaviors? It may be a combination of all…for regular people. But for people who come from where I come from, figuring out who they are is not a choice for them. I come from Gaza City in Palestine, where surviving each day is a huge struggle for all Gazans. Leaving Gaza was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, partly because I miss my old life, and partly it is the guilt kicking in.

When I left Gaza, I had to go through this checkpoint. It’s not ANY checkpoint. It is the Erez Checkpoint and its there to imprison the people of Gaza because as soon as the Israeli soldiers see a Gaza ID, that person is automatically considered an utter terrorist. Without knowing who they are, without any idea whatsoever about those people, they decide that they are criminals. Who has the right to take a person’s identity from them? Or to judge them based on a piece of paper or nationality? How can they take away people’s choice of trying to figure out who they really are? I don’t know… but as I was walking through that long tunnel in that checkpoint, I realized that no matter what I do, no one will accept me for who I am. In that tunnel, they make no difference whether I am a terrorist or a person who is yearning for peace, not only for my people but also for the Israeli people.

I had the “privilege” to leave Gaza that others dream of having. Not because they don’t love Gaza, nor for the fun of it, but because it is so hard to live there. Home became something you want to escape from instead of being the place you can run to when life gets too hard. As soon as I was through that checkpoint, after being treated like an animal, after being “numbered” like baggage, checked out by all the screening machines that never occurred to my mind that I would ever see them. I now live in Ramallah, which is only 2 hours away from Gaza. I left that exotic part of the world called Gaza; but still have it on my mind every second of the day, still influenced by my past there, and still motivated by its people’s strengths.

On the news, the talk about how Gaza has NO fuel, NO food, and even NO electricity; but the TV is just a source of information to pass on how people are suffering…does that mean that anyone outside Gaza understands what the people are really going through? No, they listen to that devastating news, ‘feel bad’ for the people going through it, and continue on with their lives like nothing happened. Maybe some people can pretend, but as for myself I can’t! This is the main reason I’m writing this for as much as I know that words can be inconsequential, they can also make a difference in many people’s lives.

I hate that I feel guilty every time I eat a piece of chocolate, knowing that a friend or a little child is craving one. I hate that when I’m bored I can open the TV or the computer and waste time, while my friends have nothing to do considering they have no electricity. I hate how I can go wherever I want, whenever I want, even outside Ramallah, while my friends are stuck at home because they have no fuel to even go around Gaza city! I hate buying new clothes, because my friends can’t. I hate that I’m absolutely and utterly helpless.

However in Gaza, regardless of the situation, you always find love and hope, you find people struggling for their lives. A mother trying to put a smile on her child’s face, a father trying to get the strength to protect his child’s little body from a missile. In Gaza you find those mixed feelings between love and hatred, between hope and despair, between frustration and satisfaction. In Gaza, you find people smiling when they cross the borders, even when it takes them hours and even days to cross. In Gaza you find just what you need. You find home.
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ACTION ITEM:

As part of the national and international mobilization to mark the 60th year of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe), in which millions of Palestinians were either slaughtered or displaced by the Zionist militias and army, the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and its Popular Committees call for the Sixth Week against the Apartheid Wall.

Six years after the first mass protests started in the northern West Bank against the Apartheid Wall, Occupation bulldozers and military are still targeting our land and people. We have continued to stand our ground, halting the construction works with our own hands, defending our land and mourning our latest martyrs - Ahmad Mousa (12 years) and Yousef Amira (17 years) from Ni’lin - that have given their lives in the struggle against the Wall. We call on you to stand in solidarity:

Mobilize and raise your voice

during the Sixth Week against the Apartheid Wall,

November 9 – 16 2008.

The Wall has almost been completed, resulting in the confinement of Palestinians in the West Bank into segregated Bantustans. 60 years ago, the depopulation or destruction of 531 Palestinian towns and villages, ruthless massacres and the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians from their houses and lands has turned the majority of the Palestinian people into refugees and placed those remaining in their homeland under an apartheid regime. Today, the Wall is threatening to finish the project of ethnic cleansing and land left that began in 1948.

Snaking through West Bank, the Wall has isolated 78 Palestinian villages, separating communities and wrecking livelihoods. Some are trapped between the Wall and the Green Line, where access is only allowed with permits through gates with restricted opening hours. Most are imprisoned from three sides by the Wall, settlers’ roads or settlements, with the only exit controlled by the Occupation. 14 of these villages face imminent demolition and are in serious danger of being wiped off the map.

The Wall is also sealing the fate of thousands of Palestinian Bedouin. Having faced expulsions since 1948, the Occupation is renewing the attack on them in order to clear the land in the Jordan Valley and around Jerusalem for annexation. Occupation authorities are pushing more than 6,000 members of the Jahalin Bedouin, residing east of Jerusalem, into rekuzim (“concentration”) camps in order to make space for Jewish-only settlements.

The fight for Jerusalem has reached a critical stage, with the Occupation consolidating and expanding the settlement ring around the city. Construction on the light rail, which will link Jewish settlements with the city centre, is near completion. Home demolitions have increased sharply, settlement construction is booming and Occupation forces regularly raid and close Palestinian institutions, events and religious sites.

As the Occupation tightens its grip on the West Bank, we must not forget the people of Gaza who are subjected to medieval siege and forgotten by the international community, yet continue to remain steadfast. They were the first to blow up the Wall, and their actions exemplify the resistance and determination of the Palestinian people.

The International Court of Justice has ruled that the Wall is illegal and has required that it be torn down and all laws and orders related to it be reversed. The Court has reminded the international community of their obligation not to render any aid or assistance to the Wall and instead to ensure the implementation of international law, including the ICJ decision itself. To date, the international community has not promoted any concrete move towards ruling’s implementation.

Instead, the United Nations and the international community have turned a blind eye to or even abetted Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing. The US sponsored and internationally endorsed Annapolis process is to result in a “shelf agreement,” meaning that while the Occupation will have no duty to change its policies, it will have gained the signature of Palestinian negotiators compromising our rights.

The only effective means to promote justice in Palestine to date is the united Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions issued in July 2005. The global adoption of the call has so far provided much needed support for our struggle.

We ask you to support the resistance of the people by mobilizing against the Wall and the apartheid system it has created on ground. We call on whoever still believes in justice, humanity, liberation, and resistance against tyranny to stand with us and:

Show solidarity to the Palestinian struggle against the Apartheid Wall
Expose Israeli occupation, apartheid, and colonialism
End global support for Israeli apartheid
Visit our website and use our awareness raising material to prepare your events and protests:

1) “Palestinian Villages and Town between Isolation and Expulsion”: a detailed study of the communities threatened with ethnic cleansing by the Apartheid Wall. Download the PDF here: http://stopthewall.org/activistresources/1583.shtml or contact us at global@stopthewall.org for hard copies. Please, see the French version at: http://www.stopthewall.org/downloads/pdf/threatenedvillages-fr.pdf

2) “Palestinian Villages and Town between Isolation and Expulsion” – the factsheet: a short summary of the most important facts and figures. Download the factsheet at: http://stopthewall.org/factsheets/1632.shtml

3) “The Arab Jahalin: from the Nakba to the Wall”: an in depth study on the history of the Jahalin Bedouin, from there expulsion from Tal ‘Arad until the present. Based on a number of oral histories, the Jahalin narrate their own struggle. Download the PDF at: http://stopthewall.org/activistresources/1720.shtml or contact us at global@stopthewall.org for hard copies.

4) “On the way of return to Tal Arad - the Arab Jahalin”: a 25 minutes documentary on the Arab Jahalin and their struggle for dignity and return to Tal Arad. To obtain a DVD, please contact us at: global@stopthewall.org

5) “Threatened villages – 6 years of struggle”: a powerful photo exhibit that illustrates the reality and struggle of the Palestinian villages threatened by the Wall and the Bedouin communities within the context of the ongoing Nakba. 36 photos, including captions.

To preview the exhibit, see: http://stopthewall.org/activistresources/1721.shtml

To obtain the hi-res photos of the exhibit and captions, please contact us at global@stopthewall.org


Develop your boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns. For more information, materials and updates, see: www.bdsmovement.net



Mobilize against the Occupation’s policies and its Apartheid Wall!

Reach out to your media!

Reach out to your political representatives!

Stop support Israeli apartheid!

Go to www.stopthewall.org for information

=============
Action is the best antidote to despair

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
http://qumsiyeh.org

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Comment by Jill Harrison on January 17, 2009 at 10:52pm
Mazin, Thank you for sharing this. I hope you don't mind that I've posted the letter from Haneen Zaqout (along with a link to this page) on my Facebook - She is a beautiful young woman.
Comment by Hannah MeenErhabi Nesbit on October 23, 2008 at 6:01pm
Israel is "trying to avoid the use of the term Palestinians lest we are reminded that we are the natives in Palestine"...

...it's funny how much power a name can have. I also think it is sickly hilarious that Israel does not realize that no matter how much they beat the Palestinians, cage them, shoot them, detain them without trial, that they will still call themselves "Palestinians"... no wall is ever going to take that name away, no matter how hard they try. <3
Comment by Hannah MeenErhabi Nesbit on October 23, 2008 at 5:58pm
"I hate that I feel guilty every time I eat a piece of chocolate, knowing that a friend or a little child is craving one."

Oh boy, I totally understand what you're saying. When I visited Palestine, I felt pretty worthless for holding a U.S. passport, being able to leave anytime I wanted, while the people beside me have to TUNNEL UNDER THE APARTHIED WALL every day just to be able to get to work. I realize now that I can't waste time feeling guilty about my privilege, but rather, I have to use my privilege to fight for the rights of others. For this reason, I can't sit still. I'm always trying to actively educate myself and my peers, and work alongside Students for Justice in Palestine at my college-- we never stop working.
Comment by Mazin Qumsiyeh on September 13, 2008 at 9:51am
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored or lied about. Any rational human being can look at the maps of where the walls are to realize what they are about. See just one example in area of Falamya and Jayyous (see maps and explanations at
http://www.qumsiyeh.org/palestine101/ ). It is not just an apartheid wall but a land grab. The thieves can't hide these facts.
Comment by Mazin Qumsiyeh on September 12, 2008 at 7:13pm
The word apartheid is Afrikaaner meaning segregation. The Israeli government and mainstream media in Israel use the term Hafrada for their system which also means segregation.

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