From my comarade:
the first thing i'd like to say is that this dispatch will be spell-checked. my apologies for the myriad typos of the last one. i just had to get it off my chest.
i spent the weekend chilling at a friend's place in ramallah. it's a lively city and i'm a city girl, that's for sure.
on saturday morning, as two of us were getting ready to travel to ramallah, we received a call asking us to come to marda, a village actually on the way towards ramallah. the iof had taken over a house there, keeping the women and children inside, and not allowing the husband in.
so we finished packing our wee bags and headed to marda. once we got to the gate (this isn't a gated community - it's a village under the well-heeled boot of american-supported occupation) our contact called and said he would come with the car to pick us up. he was soon barreling down the road towards us. once inside the car we asked what kind of support he wanted from us. mainly, n--- wanted us to stay with the women and children to make sure nothing happens to them. of course, when we arrived and rang the bell no one answered. soon, an army head appeared above us like a chimera. we asked for the door to be opened. soon another appeared. they were growing. then they disappeared. k--- and i walked round the side of the house, looking for the soldiers, calling out for an answer of some sort.
when we returned to the front of the house the front door began to open. we
approached. it was the boys in drab olive, most looking no older than 17.
there were 6 of them. k--- negotiated our way into the house with the help of our
contact. we entered and found the family members upstairs, looking exhausted.
it was just past 10:30 in the morning and the army had been at their house since
4 a.m. and why? rumour (among the soldiers only) had it that someone in this
house had thrown stones at the army. the house is far enough away from the road
and the army that one would have to have spiderman's powers to toss a rock that
far. the owner of the house was visibly agitated now that he was allowed into his
own home. palestinian, he has israeli citizenship, so can work in israel. in fact, that is where he was when his wife and brother called to tell him the iof was in his house. when he got to his home, the army refused to let him in.
we walked in with m---, our contact, and started towards the stairs. i asked one of
the army boys what they were doing there. "we're on a mission" was the reply. we headed up the stairs. there were army backpacks and a few soldiers collected around the top of the stairs. we moved past them and asked the women and men and children if they were okay. they appeared exhausted but alright. m--- was upstairs as well, and was yelling at the soldiers. i tried to calm him, tried to get others to calm him, but it was difficult. what can you say to someone who had to leave his place of work in the middle of the night because the army's gone into his house; an army with a reputation for wrecking people's homes and harming the inhabitants. the shouting went on for at least ten minutes between m--- and one of the two older soldiers - he looked 20. k--- concentrated on talking to him as i continued to uselessly try to convince m--- to stop yelling at the soldiers.
the boys in fatigues said they would leave if everyone left the house. we immediately asked if the immediate family and the two of us could remain to ensure the army left and somehow, they agreed to this. was it because the owner possesses israeli citizenship? were they possibly embarrassed to be doing this in front of internationals? they gathered up their belongings. as they were putting some bags into a box, k--- handed them a bag of garbage they had left on the floor. i passed over an overflowing ashtray. one of the younger soldiers - looked no older than 16 - climbed the stair to the roof to collect large bottles of pop and water. as he did, he held his automatic gun towards the family below. what was anyone, especially those with no weapons at all, going to do? after all, the soldiers created this situation.
when they began to descend the staircase, we followed to make sure they left. k--- went up to the soldier she'd been talking with and that's when we learned it was about alleged stone-throwing. k--- mentioned that what were rocks compared to the automatic weapons they had attached to their bodies. another soldier said that rocks are dangerous when thrown at cars. they drive jeeps and tanks, one. and two, k--- pointed out how far the house was from the road. they, of course, refused to relent on any of this. they are convinced of their rightness. mission accomplished, i suppose. another palestinian family harassed and put on edge.
when we went back upstairs, m---'s wife found that the army had stolen $1550.00 shekels from her purse. they had unplugged the telephone line, and used the computer. when they had entered the house, they asked m---'s wife to make them coffee and prepare some food. she told them to make it themselves. when m---'s mother stated confronting them at some point, one of the soldiers grabbed a piece of her hijab and tried to put it over her mouth. they moved some of the furniture around to suit themselves, and in order to enter the property, they had destroyed part of the fence along one side of the house. the family also found two spent shells in one of the rooms. can someone out there explain me how this is "security" and how this isn't complete and utter harassment. palestinians live with the threat of home invasions, incursions into their villages and cities every day all day. when will this stop?
there are many recorded examples of the iof stealing money, electronic equipment and destroying the contents of people's homes because maybe someone threw a rock. a rock. a fucking rock. this is what justifies pulling people out of their homes in the middle of the night, often making the men strip down to their scivvies, keeping people outside for hours. this is collective punishment of an occupied people. this is in contravention of all international law, which i am convinced is utterly useless, because it's never enforced... consider the mass rapes occurring right now in haiti.
i have sent so many emails over time about all of this. but like my last brief visit to the unholy land seeing it up close is unspeakable. you cannot believe that this absurd system exists. but it does. and though i am trying to think about how i can help, i'll be going home to my comfortable but messy apartment with cats better fed than many people here. i have money in the bank and live in a country who controls its own water resources.
things are much worse than they were when i was last here. how can this be? why is it that we are not having an effect? being here makes it feel more dire, because it is. when i return home, i'll no doubt continue with activism as before, still searching for new ways to have an effect. consciously trying to take my cues from palestinians.
conscious but complicit.