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Sami in Palestine: Holiday in Palestine

This is a transcript of an email/listserv diary that a local Portland avtivist, Sami, is keeping from occupied Palestine.

[ Sami Updates List Serv I International Solidarity Movement ]

Nov. 3rd

We left very early to go to an important meeting in Ramallah. The entire West Bank is on lockdown because of the bombing, especially Nablus. there were soldiers on all the roads in or out, even the back ways, so we had to pile into a trailer on the back of a tractor and go over the mountain throough the olive groves. It is uncanny how Palestinians can spot a jeep from a mile away. Its a function my brain has not developed. I guess a lifetime of repression really makes you keep your eyes open. Moments after we got out of the tractor and into a taxi, we were stopped at a makeshift checkpoint. All the Palestinians with us were detained along with about 25 other Palestinians, and their IDs were taken. We waited with them until they were released, about 2hrs later. Several kilometers down the road we were stopped again, and one of our Palestinian companions was detained again, this time for about 4hrs, while they interrogated him about being a terrorist. It is important to note that it is Ramadan, and Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This means that if you want to leave your village during Ramadan, you have to make this arduous round about journey, and risk spending hours at a checkpoint in the sun without any food or water. The soldiers know this, and take this opportunity to escalate harassment, particularly at sundown when people are going home to break fast with their families. Finally he was released, and told turn back, so we had to take a back road to circumvent the checkpoint, and drive half an hour out of the way to get 10m down the road. As the sun had already gone down, the taxi driver invited us home to break fast with his family. The food and hospitality was amazing, and well appreciated. After dinner, I was invited into the other room to have coffee and talk with the women. It was exactly what I needed to revive my spirits. When talk turned to the election, the old woman said through her granddaughters translation, "Bush kills us," and another woman said "Bush and Kerry are the same, two faces of the same thing." I could only say "yes, we know this, and we are ashamed, but what can we do?" They were very sympathetic. Finally we made it to Ramallah at 10o'oclock at night. 14 hrs for 45km. This kind of daily harassment and detention is part of life here, but I never see hate in peoples eyes. People are angry, but the overwhelming sense is that it is not at the kid with the M16, not at Jews, and not at Americans. There is a profound sense of solidarity, kindness, pride, and a sense of humor. I have never seen anything like it in any country. People go out of their way to help eachother, taxis stop eachother on the street to tell what they have seen, there is no theft. Palestinian society has lots of flaws, but people are united against a common threat, and toward a common goal, survival.

Nov. 4 We were stopped at a checkpoint on the way back. There were about 250 people lines up to cross. Soldiers were shooting guns into the air. After about half an hour they let everyone go. At the checkpoint where we spent all day yesterday, there were about a hundred vehicles including 3 ambulances stopped. The reason we wwere stopped is that some settlers were coming through. When we arrived back in Balata, there was no water. The Israelis control all of the water to the refugee camps, and when they turn it off, there is no water. 80% of the water in historic Palestine is under the West Bank, but now most of it is deferred to settlements. That night we went to a Turkish Bath in the old city. It felt good to be nice to my body, but we were called out early because the army was invading.

Many people have asked me what the attitude is about Arafat. I can only say that he is a president of a land that has been occupied first by the Ottomans, then by the Brits, Jordan, and now Israel. He is a symbol of their national identity. People know he is not perfect, but he is loved and revered. A lot of people see this as an opportunity for something, but no one is sure what. In any case, his funeral will be an opportunity for people to show their face as a nation united in resistance.

Take care of yourselves,
love, Sami