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Firsts hand account from arrestee in occupied Palestine - some corrections

by Javier Saturday, Aug. 24, 2002 at 12:53 PM

Being back in Los Angeles comparing the two ways of life. Police brutality in Los Angeles does not even compare to Israeli occupation. One though, must draw the correlation, that Israel’s brutal occupation would not even be possible without the backing of the United States. Anybody who's oppressed can have some unity with the Palestinian people who have nothing to lose and a world to win. My friends and other youth (who constantly get harrassed or brutalized by police) can draw inspiration from Palestinian youth's fearlessness going against tanks with their slingshots for their dreams of liberation.

Our Arrests

On August 7th of 2002, 9 international activists were arrested in a village near Nablus, called Hawara. There was a demonstration organized by Palestinian farmers, against curfews imposed on them by Israel, which is basically home imprisonment. The protest was to be non-violent, internationals were asked to be there to participate as human shields for Palestinians. It was soon attacked by Israeli Occupying Forces (Israeli “Defense” Forces/ IDF). They shot tear gas, rubber bullets, shot live ammunition in the air, and threw sound bombs. We later found out that their excuse to cruelly react was that the road was a closed military zone. This road connected Nablus and Ramallah, and had been used by Palestinians for centuries, since biblical time. The IOF did not provide any documentation verifying the road a “closed military zone.”

There was no type of clash with any of the occupying forces, all the violence was on the part of the soldiers. When they were asked to move back, the Palestinians agreed to do so. The soldiers arrested and dragged a Palestinian youth, so some of the organizers stopped the march to negotiate the release of this individual. Eventually he was released and the marchers continued to move back.

A coordinator for the International Solidarity Movement, Adam Shapiro from New York, was filming and documenting the brutality of the IDF. At one point he turned his back to the soldiers, when a few of them grabbed and arrested him. Later, they broke his camera trying to confiscate the tape of the demonstration. The march was again stopped. International activists were trying to find some methods to get his release, by non-violent means of course because at the same time we were trying to serve our objective as human shields. Some were linking arms trying to prevent army personnel jeeps from passing. The IDF was also arresting innocent Palestinian youth. International activists were combating this peacefully by pulling on the arrestees to prevent the IDF from getting their hands on them.

All of a sudden I had found myself surrounded by soldiers. They could have easily mistaken me for being Palestinian. They all pounced on me. The commanding officer, after realizing I was an international, told me I was going back to the U.S. At the end of the march 9 internationals ended up arrested: 5 from France (including 2 women), 3 from the U.S., and one Irishman.

This had been the first direct action taken by international activists since the 5 day long Israeli siege of Nablus. People were looking forward to uniting with the Palestinian masses and protesting the occupation plus destruction of the city of Nablus, and the all around conditions of the people that live there. One can understand the anger and frustration of Palestinian farmers as we pass on the road to Balata refugee camp the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture left in utter destruction from an attack on Nablus April of this year. This is indicative of Israel’s attempt to destroy any form of Palestinian authority. Palestinian way of life is based on agriculture, and Israel terrorizes this way of life by uprooting orchards of olive trees and imprisoning Palestinian farmers. According to the U.N., 60% of Palestinians live below the poverty line, or 2 dollars a day.

This march was to break curfew in Hawara, confront the unjust checkpoint, and speak out against occupation of Nablus. In this particular checkpoint, between Hawara and Nablus, an older woman has not been able to cross into Hawara from Nablus to see her family from 5 days. Women have known to give birth or even die at these checkpoints because they were not let through. This is all a conscious effort on the part of Israel to oppress the Palestinian masses, and occupy their land.

All this was the backdrop for the demonstration of 250 Palestinians, and 40 internationals. Overall the march was successful. The only set-back was the arrest of 30 Palestinians (who I hear have been let go), and 9 internationals who have returned home and are still pending deportation. These events received a good amount of media coverage internationally. The Irish man, Salah Afifi, made front page news in his country, and was interviewed live over the telephone from prison and broadcasted on the radio. The French government condemned Israel for the arrest of French activists. Organizer Adam Shapiro made news in New York. One of the successes, say the march organizers, was that the Palestinian protestors remained composed besides attacks by the IOF.

To make the legal arrest the soldiers called in the Israeli Border Police, because “legally” the IOF can only detain us. We were all shackled and chained and put in a military truck. First of all we were taken to a settler police station in Arion (a police station in a Jewish settlement on Palestinian territory). There we were interrogated which was supposed to be part on an “investigation.” All this reminded me of a bad spy movie. We were then taken to Bengorian Airport to meet with a representative of the Ministry of Interior, to be interrogated more. There, we were not told that our Israeli Visas were cancelled, and we then became “illegal aliens” waiting to be deported. From there we were taken to Ariel Prison (located in another settlement, one of the biggest settlements in the West Bank), where we spent the night. The next day we were taken to Ramle prison in Tel Aviv, where we would stay our remainder 5 days in occupied Palestine. By this time the women were separated from the men. We would be fed kosher slop courtesy of Israel. In Ramle, we were caught in the middle of Israeli Government’s round up and deportation of all its “illegal” workers. Most of them from the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, and Ghana. All were invited by Israel to come and work in the first place. Now around 50,000 workers would be literally, according to sources, stuck in a boat and sent back to their country. In our stay there we got to hear all these stories of people’s lives and struggles, all with its uniqueness but also commonality. This also exposes the racist nature of the Israeli state, who even conscious Jewish people have made correlation to Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

This tactic of arrest and deportation of international activists by Israel is a thought out scheme on their part. Our arrest is clearly an attempt to scare international activists from coming to Palestine and supporting the Palestinian people. They want to have these people cornered and isolated making it easier for Israel to terrorize them. Even if they imprison or deport activists they can not silence the truth. We will be more determined to expose the brutality of the Israeli Occupying Forces.

Being back in Los Angeles has been a big culture shock for me. Comparing the two ways of life. Police brutality in Los Angeles does not even compare to Israeli occupation. My neighborhood does not seem like a ghetto anymore. People here can walk the streets and they don’t have tanks in their front yard. One though, must draw the correlation, that Israel’s brutal occupation would not even be possible without the backing of the United States. Anybody who's oppressed can have some unity with the Palestinian people who have nothing to lose and a world to win. My friends and other youth (who constantly get harrassed or brutalized by police) can draw inspiration from Palestinian youth's fearlessness going against tanks with their slingshots for their dreams of liberation.

Occupied Palestine

I was part of a delegation to Palestine to encounter and document the atrocities brought on the Palestinian people by Israel, some of us were there to give humanitarian aid, and also to support these people by being a human shield and protesting the brutal occupation that takes thousands of lives everyday, both Israeli and Palestinian. This delegation hosted people from around the world and from all walks of life: aspiring journalists from Japan, activists and students from the U.S., other activists and journalists from Germany, Ireland, France, Spain, Sweden, India and other parts of the world.

The things that I encountered in occupied Palestine would traumatize most people and psychologically scar them for life. Most activists while there, were called to the city of Nablus in the West Bank, because the suspected suicide bomber of the Hebrew University was said to be from Nablus. The Israeli Occupying Forces (Israeli “Defense” Forces) had sent in 150 tanks and thousands of soldiers to invade the city. From August 2nd to August 6th they basically terrorized the population living in this beautiful ancient city, and left it in ruins and rubble. Hundreds of homes were bulldozed or blown to the ground, even more inside of other homes were destroyed, furniture was thrown all over in Gestapo type searches (in one case a man’s basement was burned by soldiers), water pipes were broken and water ran through the streets while people went without water, and electricity was also cut. All while people were under curfew, unable to walk out of their homes not even for food or would get shot.

All of us activists knew of these injustices already back in our homes, and we could of heard of the siege through media, but we wanted to encounter the life under occupation first hand. Another point, and most importantly, is that Palestinians’ state of occupation has made them lose all hope, to have internationals supporting their struggle gives them a new sense of aspiration. You could see the terror that the Palestinians face just in two weeks in the West Bank or Gaza, and you could see it in the faces of the Palestinian people, afraid to walk out on their own street occupied by tanks funded by our own U.S. government. On our first day of arrival to the city of Nablus, within three hours, activists and doctors were already carrying out a body of a young Palestinian of 15 years old from his home. He was killed for taking a look from his rooftop garden, where he was shot by a sniper. His name was Rayed. In the last day of the siege by Balata refugee camp the I.O.F. shot Hazeem, a 13 year old, from their tank while he was playing soccer, he was also murdered.

One has to witness the conditions of the Palestinian people first hand to understand what drives the people to fight back. When a whole people is driven to the edge of existence, when everything that belongs to them is stolen, and hundreds of their relatives and people killed, they have no choice but to resist, in the only way they can and know how. One can correlate this to suicide bombings, the lives of the Palestinian people have already been taken from them, and all hope has been taken from them. They are driven towards martyrdom, through their brutal oppression of the Zionist settler-colonial/settler-expansionist state of Israel and its billions of military and economic funding thanks to the U.S. It has also been made clear to me by the Palestinian people themselves that their freedom and peace in Palestine will not come from Sharon, the U.S. government, or Arafat for that matter, but from the people in occupied Palestine.

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