Impressions from the Middle East: Updates from Our Partners in Palestine: Part II
Grassroots International Board Member Marie Kennedy and staff member Salena Tramel visited partners and allies in the West Bank and Israel prior to joining a delegation to Gaza, co-sponsored by Code Pink. This entry is from Marie’s notes from her meetings in the West Bank.
Feb 27th – Stop the Wall Campaign Members Tell Their Stories
Members of the Stop the Wall Campaign in Jayyous, one of the first villages to protest the wall that cuts off the West Bank from Israel, confiscating Palestinian land along the way, shared their stories with us. Stop the Wall aims to strengthen the organizational capacity of popular committees across the West Bank and to encourage the involvement of Palestinian youth in efforts against the Wall and in community mobilizing.
The village stopped demonstrating after the wall was completed in 2004, in order to help farmers get permits to access their land on the other side of the wall, where the six village wells are located. But, when Israel decided to re-route the wall, confiscating even more land, they started demonstrating again in November of 2008. Now demonstrations occur every Friday and interrogations and arrests are frequent. Four youth have been shot by Israeli forces responding to demonstrators and many have been arrested. Only a few days before our arrival, the army had searched every home in Jayyous and arrested 16 youths from Jayyous after rounding up a much larger group for interrogation at a local school.
With the construction of the wall, villagers need permits in order to access their farms. Mohammed Othman, author of Education Under Occupation, told us about his father who has had to work his farm land and tend to his sheep single-handedly for the past three years because although he has been able to obtain a permit to access his farm, none of his five sons have been granted a permit.
We also spoke with four members of the women’s committee of the Stop the Wall campaign – Lutria Halat spoke of the their resistance: “We will continue to demonstrate until the occupation has ended … They can hit us with bullets, run us over with bulldozers, but they will never kick us off this land.”
We shared a common plight of Jayyous residents when a curfew was called while we were visiting at the home of Boudour Shamasni, a member of the Women’s Committee. Suddenly, scores of Israeli jeeps were zipping around town shooting and throwing sound bombs. Sharpshooters on rooftops scanned the village for any violators of the curfew and we resigned ourselves to sitting out the curfew for what turned out to be about six hours. We were told that curfews are at least weekly, usually on Fridays, the holy day for Muslims. As we chatted and ate with the amazingly hospitable women in the house, we learned about the difficulties Boudour’s mother faces in order to visit two of her sons, who, as a result of earlier demonstrations, are imprisoned, one in the northern region of the West Bank and one in Israel. Sometimes she makes the seven-hour trip to the prison only to be dismissed after a visit of a few minutes. We were told that 90% of the young men of the West Bank have been jailed at one time or another. The Israeli military can arrest anyone and detain them for six months without charges.
When we finally returned to Ramallah, it was snowing! With no central heating and nothing but braziers as in the homes in Jayyous or small electrical spaceheaters, it is cold in most homes and offices and this winter has been especially brutal.