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imperialism & war

Jenks in Palestine

This is a first hand account of a friend of mine who's been living in Palestine the last few months. I usually post her journal entries on pdximc.

The little village of Jayyous, and the struggle its residents are
currently facing, in many ways exemplifies the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict. The town, a farming village of 4,000 residents, at first
thought they would not have to worry about the effects of the Israeli
separation wall -- after all, they are 3 1/2 miles away from the
border. But as Israel began construction of the wall, it became clear
that it was not to be built on the established border at all, but deep
within Palestinian territory -- specifically, in this case, between the
farmers and their land. For centuries the people of Jayyous have worked
this land -- picking olives by hand and developing a tomato that I can
honestly tell you is the best I've ever had. Juicy, ripe, solid -- man,
i tell you, these farmers KNOW their tomatoes.

we got into town (an adventure in and of itself.....travelling through a
land with 400 military checkpoints, and surprise checkpoints popping up
all the time, is always a challenge) and were met with the usual barrage
of curious kids and offers of coffee.....we'd just settled in with our
host and were enjoying the famous jayyous olives with hummus and bread,
when tofiq salim walked in.............an old man, in his seventies,
thin but with piercing eyes, and that hardened, wizened look of old
farmers...........the atmosphere in the room changed......became more
somber, more serious -- this is what we had come here for, after all.
tofiq salim told us in a shaking, angry voice that his trees had all
been cut today. he had fought the legal battle (in a court that does
not recognize palestinian rights, and in which there are no palestinian
lawyers), he had gone to all the protests and demonstrations (jayyous
alone has had over forty -- all of them extremely peaceful......but
fruitless), he had stood up to soldiers who tried to block him from his
land. but to no avail. his trees had all been cut. trees that had
been planted by his grandfather, and passed down to him.

it's a common story -- all over palestine we hear the stories of people
losing their source of livelihood -- people who have never done anything
to israel except live on the land that israel has decided to annex.
this is not a conflict of religion, or of arab culture vs. the west.
this is CERTAINLY not a war of anti-judaism or a response to irrational
'terrorism'. this is a war about land. plain and simple, the state of
israel, the zionist project, is a project of colonial expansion. and
the palestinians happen to be living on the land that israel wants to
take over.

certainly americans should understand this concept -- it is exactly the
same project that the usa was built on. at least 10 million native
americans killed -- and we're supposed to just forget it ever happened.
the few remaining sacred sites are being desecrated daily and native
land is being seized by hook or by crook -- it's happening today as well
(for ye who would like to write this off as ancient history) -- to the
mendota in minnesota, to the western shoshone in nevada, the oneida in
upstate new york. the colonial project continues, and the state of
israel is another example of the same idea. i mean.....WHAT GAVE ISRAEL
THE RIGHT TO TAKE THIS LAND in 1948? because their people had been
victimized by germany? i know i've said this before,but i have to keep
repeating it because i just don't understand why the palestinians have
to take the hit for what the germans did! the palestinians weren't
involved!! just because some european leaders got together in 1948 and
said -- ok, we will give the jews THIS land for their country -- while
the people LIVING on that land had no say in the decision at all.

i know, i'm diverging.....the whole thing just makes me so mad! and how
so many americans don't know even the basic facts about the issue. the
only word they know, because it's been pounded into their heads by the
american media so much, is 'suicide bomber'...........as if that's
somehow sufficient to describe everything that has happened and is
happening here in this land.

tofiq salim held a paper in his hand as he described his situation -- a
rejection notice, from his application for a permit to cross the
separation wall and go to his land. he was denied by the israeli
government.....unable to even look for himself at the destruction the
bulldozers had caused on his land. he had shared the land with his five
brothers -- 17 acres of olive trees had been all they had in this world
to call their own. they had lived off the income from the olive
harvest, raising their kids, living the tranquil life of farm families.
until the bulldozers came (made in america, thank you very much) to
wreak havoc on tofiq salim's life. he had eight children, he told me.
two of them were going to university -- any parent reading this will
know what that means ...BIG money. and now his only source of
livelihood had been taken away-- with no iota of a chance that he will
receive any compensation. they'll probably have to quit, get jobs
somewhere -- but there ARE no jobs, thanks to the israeli
occupation....they don't really know what they'll do. i met another of
his sons later on in the evening, working at the local internet cafe
(ok, so it's just four computers in a room with a dialup connection, but
still ...). even the internet cafe is dependent on the olive harvest
(and oranges, lemons and tomatoes), for it's a local business in a
farming town -- depending on the income brought in by farmers selling
their produce to maintain the local economy of the town. tofiq salim
had a hard time looking at us, the foreign visitors........he had a very
deep heaviness about him -- the indignant resignation of a man who had
just lost everything he had.

we had an action the next morning, planting olive trees -- really, it
was a symbolic action, nothing more, with two busloads of israelis who
drove in from tel aviv and haifa. it felt like it was more to help the
israelis feel like they were doing something courageous and bold than to
really challenge the imbalance of power. indeed, when soldiers stopped
the march from getting close to the fence (where there were hundreds of
palestinians, marching toward the fence from the opposite side), no one
really challenged their authority. three israelis negotiated with the
soldiers to be able to go to the fence and hand the palestinians an
olive tree -- again, just more symbolism. they then got on their buses
and went home to tel aviv and haifa. i couldn't help remembering my
friend's mother who had shown me the keys to her family's home -- in
haifa. they had been pushed out during al-naqba (the disaster) in 1948,
and were now living permanently in the 'west bank' (west of the jordan

in jayyous the israeli separation barrier (in this case a tall, hefty
electrified fence, on both sides of a modern road) goes right next to
the town, within yards of a number of homes. the town is on a hill, and
when you stand on the edge of town you can see that the road protected
by the fence leads to a settlement of Israelis on the next hill over --
the edge of it is only 500 yards away. the valley where the farmland
lies is scheduled to be annexed to that settlement -- eventually the
whole area between jayyous and the border will be filled with israeli
settlements. soon there will be no trace of tofiq salim's olive trees,
no trace that this was once palestinian farmland. there may be a few
forgotten foundation stones -- but they can be written off as having
been abandoned for thousands of years. in short, it will become like
the rest of what is now israel. a modern society built on the ruins of
an ancient one, the ancient culture scattered and abandoned by the

equipment and tax money goes to support this abhorrent project to
disenfranchise an entire population. GET UP!! DON'T LET THIS INJUSTICE

I was told once by a relative that it seems to be my calling to work in
other parts of the world, while others have to work on the problems at
home -- the implication beng that I was somehow avoiding responsibility
for working on the problems at home. but I don't see it that way --
there is injustice everywhere around us, and it is our responsibility
aas humans to acknowledge our responsibility for our role in that
injustice, and to work to correct the injustice. WHEREVER it may be.
it is the RESPONSIBILITY OF US CITIZENS to acknowledge our complicity in
this and thousands of other injustices, and work to correct these
injustices. as long as there is american tax money going to kill
palestinians (and iraqis, salvadoreans, haitians, venezuelans...), then
we as US citizens have a responsibility to stand up to that, to
challenge it, in any way we can.

right now, i am trying to break the media blackout on reporting about
the daily violence of the israeli occupation. that's why i keep giving
out my website:  http://www.imemc.org , and trying to encourage everyone
to call their local radio station and have them download and play our
daily audio reports. it's a start, anyway.......now, we just have to
get this news on CNN......

it's a really interesting moment to be in palestine. it's all going
according to script, really -- the palestinian elections, the appearance
that there is going to be a power shift, where the palestinian authority
will actually have some control over their land. in reality, israel is
just waiting for the excuse they need to maintain the occupation. sure,
there will be peace talks, handshakes .....the intifada will end,
(israeli prime minister) sharon will be seen as a hero. but the
occupation will still be there......the people of jayyous will still
lose their land....the expansion of settlements in the west bank will
continue. sure, they'll move the settlers out of gaza, paying them off
and giving them beachfront houses in israel....but what is forgotten in
that whole spectacle is that there are less than 5,000 settlers in
gaza. the vast majority (nearly 200,000) live in the rapidly expanding
settlements in the west bank. and THOSE settlements continue to expand
and expand. and unless some outside pressure comes in, and comes in
soon, israel is going to keep building their annexation wall to colonize
half of what is left of the palestinians land. pushing the palestinians
into bantustans. indian reservations. ghettoes.

tofiq salim is just one, but there are thousands just like him. having
your home demolished before your eyes, your ancestors' olive trees
cruelly uprooted, watching the tanks as they tear through your ancient
roads, destroying your monuments and memories, being walled-in, shut
out, held under curfew day after day after day, checkpoints around every
bend, settlements atopevery hill on what used to be your land -- this is
the life for palestinians. what good is a ruling by the international
court of justice in the hague that the israeli annexation wall is
illegal and must be torn down, if the international court of justice
cannot do anything to enforce that law?? i am not saying i'm in favor
of international government (i am not), but the conscience of the world
MUST be moved on this issue to actually stand up to israel. given that
israel has virtually the only cache of nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons in the region, though, as well as the solid backing of the most
powerful military in the world (a military which, however 'mighty' it
may be, sure seems to be taking quite a beating in iraq), well, given
all these factors, is it any wonder that the other countries here
haven't stood up to the colonial power of israel? and certainly the
palestinians, who have no army, no weapons but some homemade rockets and
old russian guns, know they are completely outmatched by the sixth
largest army (in per-capita spending) in the world.

more info on jayyous:
article from last week's Providence Journal (ri) newspaper
case study by academic research institute of jerusalem:



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