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The 166th CCIPPP Mission – October 23rd to 31st, 2010

Sunday 9 January 2011

This mission is made up of four associations – the ATMF (the association of North African workers in France), the IDD (Immigration, Development, Democracy), the UJFP (French Jewish Union for Peace) and the FTCR (the federation of Tunisians for citizenship on both sides of the shore) [Translator’s note – the shores of the Mediterranean Sea].

The first day, Saturday October 23rd, 2010, at East Jerusalem. There are already 28 people here out of the 32 expected. The four associations are present (ATMF, IDD, FTCR and UJFP). For the first contact, the participants gave a mutual presentation. Then Michel Warschawski gave us a rundown on the colonization situation, notably at Cheikh Jarrah. He briefed us on the political situation in Israel, which has the most extreme right-wing government ever known and the dramatic consequences that ensue (occupation, massive arbitrary arrests and colony expansion). We were also briefed on the BDS Campaign (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) and its consequences in terms of how it affects Israel’s image. Then the group, lead by Rhacib, went to the Al Boustan neighborhood in the town of Silwan. There, 88 houses have already been confiscated by settlers and 1,600 people expelled. We were met under the fraternity tent, put up by the population that is resisting. The entire neighborhood is sharing in the struggle ; many people have been arrested including children. They explained to us how the archeological diggings are being used as a pretext to attempt to expropriate and Judaize the whole neighborhood.

Tel Aviv We’re received at the Coalition of Women for Peace by Esti Micenmacher. Among the members of the coalition, there was a debate on the right to return for Palestinian refugees. Within the coalition, several groups of people have left for reasons of divergence on strategy (these people feel that the positions taken on the boycott go beyond its initial structure). The coalition has created a website, “Who Profits ?”, which aims at listing the persons and businesses that profit from the occupation. This site gives a non-exhaustive list of names of all the businesses, banks, multinationals, industries and services that generate profits coming from the occupation of Palestine. Included among these businesses are French, Belgian and Swiss groups (such as Véolia, Dexia, Danone, Orange etc.). Some of these groups operate Palestinian rock quarries and dump garbage in them, burying it illicitly. Israeli businesses hold the monopoly on the distribution of petroleum products and water. Armament industries such as G4S vaunt their products by explaining how well they work, tested on the Palestinian population.

Taybe (a city in the triangular Israeli zone right next to Tulkarem where Palestinians are in the majority). Here we meet with the Balad Party, which is national, non-religious and democratic ; it is one of the three “Palestinians of ’48” parties in the Knesset. It was founded by Azmi Bicharra, today forced into exile. Haneen Zoabi, a woman who was on the Peace Flotilla, is among the three Balad deputies. Jamal Zahalka explains to us his party’s positions. The Palestinians of ’48 demand an end to all the discrimination they’ve been suffering in terms of education, possession of lands, lodgments and rights. Balad pronounces itself in favor of cultural autonomy for Palestinians. It considers that the Palestinians of ’48 are being subjected to a situation similar to that of South Africa during Apartheid. It is fighting as well in the legal field against expropriations and destruction of houses. Balad is particularly aware of the problem of education, to which more and more young Palestinians are being deprived. Two other people in charge of Balad explained to us the existence of 40 unrecognized villages in the region and the disastrous consequences for their habitants (no water, no electricity, no public services etc.). These villages finally had to bring their case before the International Criminal Court in order to obtain a little drinking water. Questioned by us, Balad expressed its unreserved support for the BDS Campaign and explained as well how it is militating for one single state in Palestine.

Monday October 25th, 2010 – East Jerusalem, colonies around Jerusalem, Hebron, Deishe and Bethlehem

East Jerusalem and the colonies around Jerusalem. We’re welcomed at the AIC (Alternative Information Center) headquarters in the center of Jerusalem by Michel Warschawski, who gives us a talk on colonization, the political situation in Israel and also the relations with the United States. He explained the difference between two types of colonization. The essential problem for the occupying forces is to gain the battle over demographics.

At Jerusalem, there is an incessant attempt to Judaize all of East Jerusalem. The colonization in the West Bank is essentially spatial – to monopolize a maximum of space with a minimum of Arabs in it. The ideas that Arial Sharon brought forth are still being applied today. The principal is to leave five or six districts to the Palestinians and occupy all the others. Michel used the image of Swiss cheese with its holes. He reminded us that, for Sharon and his successors, the war of independence is not over, that the borders have not yet been acquired and that no peace whatsoever is possible for another 50 years. A group of youngsters from the CEMEA – Secular Students Solidarity was with us. Then we went by bus to see the colonization in and around Jerusalem. Some of the colonies are veritable towns in the suburbs. This is the case with Pisgat Zeev, where the tramway will be coming to. In the seventies, Israeli vice prosecutor Plya Albek flew over the region in a helicopter, choosing zones that had been declared empty, for the construction of future colonies. These colonies today occupy most of the area, so that when the Israelis say they’re going to content themselves with building in the existing colonies, it amounts to re-launching colonization everywhere. On this subject, to cite Ariel Sharon, “Israel’s borders will be where the plow traces its last furrow.” The roadway system is very complicated, with roads for settlers and, below them, other, smaller ones for Palestinians. So-called unofficial colonies, namely industrial zones and gas stations not even in operation, houses not lived in etc. serve to occupy the space. There are “economic” settlers attracted by cheap housing, but the people politically managing these projects are from the extreme right-wing – “Whoever speaks of 300,000 to 400,000 new settlers is dreaming. Our objective is not demographic but spatial and our role is to guarantee to the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria that they will not be living behind barbed wire fences, but in a continuity of Jewish people.” This is a citation of Hodi Liberman in the Haaretz Daily of July 17th, 1996.

Hebron Ezran an Israeli, native of Iraq and Hillel, a professor of Palestinian history, accompany us from Jerusalem. Our arrival in the historical town of Hebron, where several blocks of houses have been confiscated by settlers, is gripping. It’s an absolute scandal ; all of us are choked up with feelings of revolt and injustice. For several hundreds of meters, wire meshing has been put up over the street, on which particularly hostile settlers throw their garbage. The immunity for their acts pushes them to behave more and more dangerously and irresponsibly. There are today 500 settlers and 1,500 military personnel as back-up forces for their violent acts. Walid, who is in charge of the Hebron rehabilitation committee, shows us dozens of closed-up shops and streets blocked off. As a result, the city has become much poorer and begging is on the rise. Feelings of distress and grief reign here. After having passed through several so-called “security” turnstiles, we come to the Patriarch’s Tomb, where the terrorist settler Barouk Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in 1994. Part of the mosque has been transformed into a synagogue. Seeing as our Muslim comrades had been forbidden entry into the synagogue, the group decided to turn around and go back. During this time, another part of the group was able to get into the mosque.

Deiseh – Bethlehem We took our meal in the offices of the IBDAH Center, the association that had asked us to come, and which is located in the refugee camp. Wissam invited us to a fruitful exchange of thoughts on the lot of the camp’s population. 12,000 habitants are crammed into an area of ½ km². Wissam’s speech contained three main points – first, he insisted on the fact that beyond the conviviality of being together, we must share our ideas even more. Next, that it is important to go beyond religious, racial and geographic ties and enter into ideological ties. Finally, that we’re living in a globalized world and each one of us has the right to feel concerned by his neighbor’s situation. The question of clarifying historical, geographic and demographic details (young people make up 60% of the population) concerning the creation of a center and different sponsors who subsidized it (French Sharing Institute etc.) was put forward. The message delivered to the youngsters was globally very positive, on the sporting initiative, associative projects and other dreams, no matter misfortunes of ill fate. In spite of the difficult living conditions in the refugee camp (no room for playgrounds, impossibility to go out, problems of unemployment and future prospects among the young etc.), the courage and humbleness they show force our admiration and give us hope in the struggle to help the oppressed. The message was simple – it really is dreaming that enables them to advance. They called on us, privileged actors of what is happening in the camps, to testify to the world so that they don’t sink into oblivion. The evening finished off with a series of questions – responses.

Tuesday October 26th. Dheishé – Beit Sahour – Al Masara – Jenine

A visit to the Deishe Camp This is one of the 59 camps run by the UNRWA. In 1948, the refugees started out living under tents. The camp had been created by the Red Cross which, when they realized the extent of the conflict, passed it on to the UN. The tents have been replaced by “living chambers” where families of six or seven people are crammed in. At the beginning, there was only one single bathroom for several chambers and they had to wait in line. Since 1967, the camp has gone through several long periods of curfew as well as incursions by the army and collective punishments.

We visit a kindergarten. Most of their material comes from aid given by various countries. In spite of a lack of school buildings and teachers, the educational level in the camp is very high. The alleyways are extremely narrow, the walls covered with graffiti representing the everyday situation in occupied Palestine.

At the edge of the camp, we meet with salaried workers of the UNRWA, who have been on strike for 12 days because their status and their pay is way below that of internationals. Garbage containers are overflowing everywhere, schools and clinics are closed. We discuss with them about the strikes in France, we fraternize with them and promise them to make their struggle known, notably at the Forum on Education.

Beit Sahour We’re met by Nassar Ibrahim from the Palestinian headquarters of the AIC (yesterday, Mikado [Translator’s note – Michel Warschawski is known as Mikado to his friends] welcomed us at the Israeli headquarters in Jerusalem). Nassar presents himself ; he’s a Marxist professor who has studied and worked in different countries and participated in the Palestinian people’s struggle. He came back to Palestine in 1998. At first, he was reticent towards Israeli anti-colonialists. His fears receded and he and Mikado created the AIC. Nassar gave us his political analysis on the situation. He explained how Zionism, from its beginning, is also a form of colonialism.

He is a firm supporter of one single state in Palestine, secular and democratic. He denounced the absurdity of the Oslo Accords along with the actual peace negotiations because Israel’s preconditions are to maintain their colonial emprise. He is calling to civil societies all around the world to show their solidarity and to bear witness to what is happening here. He addressed himself particularly to Jews, the only way that an alternative to Netanyahu’s policies can come about.

Al Masara We leave by bus to go to the district of Bethlehem to see the ravages caused by the occupation. Herodion is an important historical area. The mausoleum of King Herod is on this mountain. This area has become an Israeli national park, a financial and tourist windfall with busloads passing all the time. The Palestinians have not only been despoiled of this area but also of the rich olive orchards in the colonies surrounding the site. Our guide, Mahmoud, works with French activists, notably the UJFP in Grenoble. He leads a people’s resistance committee against the occupation. He shows us, at the foot of Herodion, a colony occupied by seven of the most ultra-orthodox families from the ex-colonies in the Gaza Strip, and another occupied by Liberman.

This committee organizes, every Friday, a non-violent demonstration. Nevertheless, since 2002 it has seen 29 people killed including seven children, constant humiliation and numerous arrests.

Mahmoud shows us the different colonies and the olive orchards which the farmers can no longer get to. Even some of these 3,000 year–old olive trees have been ripped up (In ten years, 1,600,000 olive trees have been torn out of the ground). We make a long stop before the Wall at Bethlehem, where it is covered with graffiti in all languages. This graffiti is a mixture of anger and hope. Other walls have fallen ; this one will, one day, fall also…

Leaving in the direction of Jenine, we go past all the colonies surrounding Bethlehem, notably Gush Etzion (a population of 9,000).

During the voyage, we’re stopped by a single checkpoint, where a French-speaking Israeli soldier, on learning that we’re going to Jenine, says, “They’re all crazy over there”. Then pointing to our Palestinian driver, he says, “And him, is he peaceful ?”…

Wednesday, October 27th – Jenine – Bir Zeit – Ramallah

Visiting a camp in Jenine Our guide, Nabil, is the director for the Freedom Theater. He tells us the story of the battle at the camp in 2002. After having resisted for 15 days, during which the Israeli troops suffered heavy losses, Sharon brought in bulldozers – 650 houses were destroyed. There were 67 killed including 15 children and 600 wounded. The camp is now rebuilt as well as the mosque. The town of Jenine counts 65,000 habitants of which 16,000 are in the camp. The town was once prosperous with a railroad line running from Haifa to Mecca ; all that’s left of the train station is ruins. Recently, a few new buildings have been constructed. At the entrance to the town, we came across a rather bizarre scene – a group of Palestinian policemen going through a training session.

The Freedon Theater at Jenine Nabil recounts to us its history. Arna Mer Khemis, an Israeli communist activist, married to a 48 year-old Palestinian man, came to Jenine to make her excuses for the crimes committed by Israelis during the first Intifada. She was successful in enabling the children of the camp to express themselves – these children are traumatized by the humiliation and repression they’re going through. With the help of a Palestinian woman in the camp, she founded the theater. Most of these children participated in the battle of 2002 and a number of them were killed. The film “Arna’s Children”, made by Arna’s son Juliano, recounts this heartbreaking story. The theater had been destroyed during the combat, and then was rebuilt thanks to aid from several countries, including France (the worker’s council at EDF [electric company]) and the United States (a Jewish sponsor). Zakaria Zoubeidi, who had been hunted down and threatened with a death sentence before being granted amnesty, is among the new theater’s founders.

Nabil explains for us the type of theater practiced at Jenine, inspired notably by Brecht. George Orwell’s play “The Animal Farm” did not please the Palestinian Authority at all, who clearly understood that it was directed at them with its caustic criticism of corruption and abuse of power. Nabil was interrogated during 15 days and forbidden to travel for one year. Nabil is insisting that the theater treat the subject of women’s liberation and that of freedom. We were able to watch a rehearsal for a while, where the director is a woman who knows her profession inside out, directing the young men playing their roles.

We met a Palestinian woman born in Algeria who is a teacher in a school in the area. During her career, she had been exiled and constantly displaced, finally landing up in the Jenine camp. Also, we finally met with Ishmael Khateeb, whose incredible story had been revealed by the press. Playing with a plastic toy pistol one day, his 12 year-old son, Ahmed, was shot dead by an Israeli soldier. The parents decided to donate his organs to Israeli children in need of a transplant. Unfortunately, this gesture has not changed the brutal nature of army occupation. A foundation has been created called “The Ishmael Khateeb Foundation” and the boarding house where we stayed was erected by the foundation along with an Italian NGO.

Two comrades from our mission went to meditate at the grave of one of the camp’s leaders who was killed in 2007 during a scuffle between two rival factions when he tried to come between them.

Bir Zeit This very beautiful university at the gates of Ramallah was financed mainly by rich Palestinians living overseas. The mission was split into two groups during the meeting with the BNC (the Palestinian National Committee for the BDS Campaign). What follows was written by the group that participated in the Worldwide Educational Forum at Ramallah.

We’re welcomed by Samia, a woman professor at Bir Zeit and by two salaried leaders of the BDS Campaign – Hind, a Palestinian and Michael, an Englishman.

Our interlocutors were extremely clear on an essential question – while it is true that each national group can adapt the BDS to their local conditions, these comrades are for a total boycott – economic, political, academic, cultural, sportive etc. To conceive of the boycott just for products coming from the colonies can be a first step. But to limit it to this is a double error – on the one hand, this restrains the rights of the Palestinian people to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, forgetting all the rest – the refugee’s right to return, the Palestinians of ’48 and the apartheid. On the other hand, this means favoring a certain Israeli, left-wing group of people who are hooked on the idea of defending the “Jewish State”. It’s about choosing Palestinian rights in their place.

Michael gave us several examples of the success of the BDS Campaign (a Norwegian pension fund that withdrew their money, the sale of Veolia actions in the tramway project for Jerusalem etc.). The boycott distinguishes clearly between Jews and Zionists. This is the only possible answer for civil societies to colony expansion. Our interlocutors waxed ironical about the boycott initiated by Salam Al Fayyed, the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister. His boycott is the consequence of the international success of BDS but it’s limited to products from the colonies when the massive majority of Palestinians already don’t buy these products. Besides which, the fact that these two economies are interwoven and the feeble amount of the fines renders the boycott ineffective.

Considering that the history of Europe and its responsibility in the massacre of Jews makes solidarity even more difficult, we must organize our arguments efficiently in the face of accusations of anti-Semitism. Besides, a number of Jews are active in the BDS Campaign.

The academic boycott doesn’t target people but rather institutions as in the past during the boycott against South Africa. Some Israeli universities that are favorable to BDS demand that they themselves be boycotted (see the website “boycott from within”). Michael has already passed along everywhere the complaint lodged against Stephane Hessel and has proposed a form protest letter to send to congressmen so as to give an international impact to this scandal.

Thursday October 28th at Ramallah, the Worldwide Educational Forum

The morning is spent preparing our speech at the Forum within the framework of tomorrow’s discussion group organized by the IDD on the theme of education, immigration and development.

At 2 P.M., a march started out, going from downtown to the Culture Palace, where the forum will be held. The demonstration, several thousand people strong, was full of energy, uncoordinated, colorful, joyous and action-filled, mingling together Palestinian political organizations such as the FPLP and the FPDLP with Palestinian NGOs (notably the PARC and women’s associations as well as others that aid the sick and disabled) plus European organizations (from France, Spain, Italy etc.). We also came across high-school students protesting against the destruction of their establishment.

Then the opening ceremonies for the forum took place at the Culture Palace. The contributors, both Palestinian as well as internationals, underlined the political signification of this event – international solidarity towards the Palestinian people in their combat against the occupation and colonization and the demand of all for their fundamental rights, notably that of receiving a quality education for all, which is the guarantee of a better future.

Many women spoke, particularly Moema Miranda, the Brazilian founder of the worldwide social forums. She evoked the words of Mandela when he asserted that the struggle against apartheid will never be achieved as long as Palestine is not free. Mustafa Barghouthi, the leader of Palestine Initiative and ex-candidate during the presidential elections against Mahmoud Abbas, gave the most striking speech, and the most applauded. He pronounced himself against all the false peace plans and for BDS. He brought out the connections between the demands of all Palestinians – those of ’48, of the West Bank ; of the Gaza Strip and of Jerusalem, and those who long to come back to their country.

Thursday October 28th, group 1. We wake up at Haifa with a long day ahead of us and the sea in the background ! At first, we participate in a meeting organized in the context of the worldwide social forum for education, chaired by the Baladna Association for Arab Youth. This workshop revealed itself very rich in information on the situation of political persecution in Israel. They tell us of the court case held yesterday against Ameer Mahkoul and generally what the political activists who are arrested go through, hounded and imprisoned, following an intentional plan of increasingly fascist actions. Ammer’s defense lawyer accepted negotiations with the prosecutor on the first charge of leaking information to the enemy during the war with Lebanon. He’s facing from seven to ten years of prison even though the investigators found no concrete evidence in more than 3,000 conversations intercepted plus ten personal computers that were searched…

On the Worldwide Educational Forum, see also the account written by Xavier

A dozen of us then take the bus towards the Negev Desert just after noon. We’re accompanied by a Canadian and Quebecker delegation with professors and other representatives of popular education. They came to the forum in a group of 50 people, most of which at this moment are at Ramallah for the official opening.

We are calling into question the Israeli policy to Judaize the Negev Desert. They are gathering together all the Bedouins in little villages, lodging them in public housing, and then taking their lands. Many have refused this proposition, resulting in the non-recognition of their villages, which have no water, electricity and so on…

Looking to expel them, the Israelis have poisoned their crops, several times using their superior force to destroy habitations, with the declared aim of taking their lands to make a national forestry park.

Al Araquib – a symbolic village of the Bedouin’s struggle, today still counts between 400 and 500 habitants. We discover here an apocalyptic scene of a destroyed village seemingly without a soul left living ; heaps of broken-up concrete, twisted metal scrap and dead, ripped-up olive trees. Nevertheless, after each bulldozing the Bedouins move their tents and whatever they can save, as best they can… The school is seven or eight kilometers away and the habitants organize the bussing. Every day, they have to go three kilometers as well, to collect water. Some of the men, who had tried to defend their village, find themselves behind a fence and are forbidden to come into the village under threat of being imprisoned, when in fact the others are already imprisoned.

Their struggle is peaceful ; they call themselves Israeli, they recognize the State of Israel but they simply want to keep their lands and their way of life and to defend their rights. Israel is demanding that they give up 80% of their lands, promising to pay them and to rehouse them but, in the words of Abunidal, this is a waste of time and energy. Abunidal confides his story to us, that of his flourishing village, its festivities, the herds, life before the struggle started, with photos to back all this up… He has money but, showing us his property title recognized by Israel during the seventies, says how in any case they won’t let him buy land anywhere else !

At the end of the visit, more than a hundred of us gather together under a big tent. The village chiefs and other leaders pass on to us their pleasure to welcome internationals and thank us warmly for our enthusiastic support. Everyone assisting stresses the importance of teaching the why and the how of resistance in Palestine and for the Palestinians of ’48. The dialogs are at the same time fraternal and forceful in this spot where the first day of the forum takes on its every sense !

At the moment of our departure, we are invited by a participant. He receives us in his home at a neighboring village for an impromptu barbeque. He accepted the indemnity and built a new house but continues to support the habitants of Al Araquib in their struggle. Our mission reuniting Jews and Arabs for justice would have impressed them and the village chief would have liked more Israeli Jews in the image of Jean Guy ! We promise to spread the word ; we give our word…

The forum at Haifa this Friday October 29th. We leave our guest house for the opening of the Haifa chapter of the forum. We’re not as many as at Ramallah, but a hundred or so participants have shown up – lots of youngsters, most of them university students. Several of us are delighted to run across activists they’ve already met on previous occasions. Sarah meets up with Pascale from the CCFD again ; André will be giving a talk – he’s with Nick who runs the BDS Campaign in Scotland. They met at Montpellier during a meeting against Agrexco. Nacer finds Annette from the AIC again ; she accompanied him during the ATMF/UJFP mission in 2002…

After a minute of silence for the martyrs, Salma Wakins, one of the leaders of the Union of Associations of the Arab Community (Itijah), dedicates the forum to Ameer Makhoul and elaborates on the issues. It’s Sarah who stands in for Mireille (from the Fanon Foundation), speaking in her place – Mireille left to participate at Ramallah – for the committee on the role of intellectuals in the context of colonialism. Us (ATMF and UJFP), we lead a discussion group on teaching decolonization. Our speeches have to be made in Arabic (no problem for Aliatte) or in English (no problem for Michele). Florence takes advantage of a collective preparation, prepared with joint effort ; André translates his correspondent from Bordeaux. We’d also invited Marcello from Tarabout, to present the work done by his association at Haifa, and Nick, on the problems posed by the teaching of the “Holocaust”.

Briefly, it was a great meeting, for which we’ll be giving you other elements when we re-do the workshop in Bethlehem. We weren’t always able to follow all the other discussions but luckily we will be making a restitution. We received much more than we gave during a magnificent Palestinian cultural evening – writings, songs, good humor, storytelling, oud (a Middle Eastern string instrument) music and raps. One of us taped this account while the others stayed and drank with the artists…

The Ramallah group

Friday October 29th. Ramallah – Dheishe

We put out a call to participate in our workshop called “Education, Immigration and Development” emphasizing the Judeo-Arab composition of our group. The workshops took place in a rather run-down school at Al Bireh. We’ll be having six people from the outside participating with our group, making for 20 people in all. Generally, the audience is variable in number.

The debate started with a presentation of the mission then there were two talks (by ATMF and UJFP) on the history of discrimination in France, on the role of schooling that amplifies this phenomenon and on solidarity with Palestine. IDD spoke of the actions they lead in Morocco, particularly in the domain of education and the place for young people in development activities.

Hamouda from the FMAS (Moroccan Alternative Southern Forum) strongly criticized Morocco’s neglect of public education. He spoke of actions taken so that Moroccans living in Europe don’t forget their roots. He also evoked the memories of Moroccan Jews that remain undying.

Iyad, one of the leaders of the Bisan Center spoke of development in Palestine. He explained why some types of aid must be refused, notably American aid. He explained how the Israelis are cheating the Palestinians by not paying their social security benefits under the pretext that they’re illegal workers. These workers have been replaced by Asians. Then our delegation broke up into several discussion groups.

The road that we took to go to Dheishe is narrow, winding and jammed with vehicles. It goes around Jerusalem, which is forbidden to access for Palestinians from the West Bank. For them this is the only passageway between the north and the south.

Naji received us at the Al-Phoenix Center, which is named thusly because it has risen again several times after having been destroyed by the Israelis. This center comprises a computer room, a gym, a meeting room, a banqueting hall and a large kitchen. During the debate with him, Naji expressed very hard words for the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords. Here are several citations of the words he spoke :
We would like to have one single enemy and not two.
Palestine cannot be run by someone who needs to ask permission to move around.
True negations will be held outside of the realm of Zionist ideology.

He described the collusion between the occupying forces and the Palestinian Authority for arresting suspects. He treated the people who have become rich under the occupation as mercenaries. He revealed that the Israelis have refused to return the bodies of prisoners who have died before finishing their sentence – the mortal remains are frozen and kept until the sentence has expired.

A slam composed by Paguy, a member of the 166th mission

(Translator’s note : In French, this rhymes. Not being a poet, it’s rather “poetic prose” in my translation.)

Stomach Churning in Palestine
•I went to meet you, not much luggage, with a rather wilted bouquet.
•Not much in my backpack, just enough to charm you.
•Having become choosy, they told me you don’t let anyone get near you.
•On the plane, I was anguished ; I didn’t know how to approach you.
•I have loved you for a long time, but you know that too
•You didn’t respond to my advances, or to my letters but I wasn’t offended
•To anyone who wanted to know, I said, “I have a date with Palestine”
•I knew I’d arouse envy and make my neighbors furious.
•At the airport my eyes searched everywhere for you but, as usual, you played hard- to-get.
•My smile faded away when I saw how you’d changed.
•Nowadays, to come and give you a kiss, I’ve got to show my identity papers.
•The whole world is courting you ; it’s not surprising that you feel like snubbing.
•So I did like the other suitors, I stood stoically in line.
•In single file like Indians, I put my feathers and my flashy suit away.
•When I saw a bunch of people turn back troubled and confused.
•Unlucky at cards, unhappy in love, you refused them your visa.
•And without knowing why, you opened your door to me.
•Hesitating, I stood at your doorstep trying to get my wits back,
•The songs, the dances and the odors, everything that made up your charms and everything I savored.
•Instead of all that, the desert, emptiness, your entrance guarded by troops.
•Your descendants are numerous, but I’m not jealous.
•I’ll accept everything you want if you take me for your spouse.
•But what happened during all those years ?
•Why do your children seem to be crying ?
•I had to travel up and down miles and miles to figure out your mystery.
•Every season you wear yourself out and nothing grows.
•You can no longer feed your children, you the earth mother.
•Your open scars and your wounds arouse anger.
•Your daughter Jenine showed me the lands they gassed – as in “Gaza”.
•In the West Bank, I saw your streets covered with waste – as in “Dheishe”.
•non-translatable
•non-translatable
•non-translatable
•I looked over your children from Beer Shiva to Haifa, from head to foot.
•I even questioned Galilee and Nablus and they assured me that hope
•sown refuses to grow again.
•Are you really Palestine, is this the sign of a malignant tumor ?
•I dropped my bouquet, when I realized that your sign was cancer.
•What happened to your orange groves, your orchards
•full of olive trees, of all that made you famous ?
•Palestine what a state you’ve got yourself in, old and metastasized.
•The suitors that I saw, had they come to commemorate you ?
•Could they have buried you alive already ?
•My Palestine I came back to you and would like to think that all is not lost.
•Even if they’ve robbed you of all your most lovely virtues.
•Must I conclude that you don’t recognize me ?
•Your children are loosing patience in your streets,
•waiting only for your signal to put the oxen and the plows back
•to plow the soil so that a new salvation finally germinates.
•Palestine do you want to be my lover ?
•Together we will stop the flow of blood and gore.
Paguy

Bethlehem The worldwide forum takes place at the University of Bethlehem. The two groups from our mission join back together. The forum is organized in a rather confusing kind of way. Several workshops are annulated or transformed. We are present at the plenary on “Mondialization and Education” ; among the contributors are Mireille Mendes France (the Franz Fanon Foundation and the UJFP). We present again our workshop on immigration, with Naji, the director of Al Phoenix, chairing it. He explains the enormous importance of education for the Palestinians. The average educational standard at Deisheh is superior to that of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians, even among the poorest, spend enormous amounts of money to send their children overseas to study. Even though, once they have their diploma, there are no jobs… Naji showed how, in the camps, the habitants have to make up for the UNRWA’s inadequacy concerning education. We participate in an AIC discussion group, lead by Mikado, on the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian war.

The mission is finished. Most of the members of the group participate in a very nice collective party at Bethlehem, organized by the forum.

Sunday October 31st 22 people slept at Deisheh. There we met a comrade named Françoise, who was expelled from Israel three years ago and was able to enter this time after a seven hour wait.

On the road to Jerusalem, a checkpoint forces us to turn around. For us, it means only a few minutes lost. For the Palestinians, it’s an everyday occurrence. When we arrive, we find out that three people from our group, who left yesterday, were held up for three hours at the airport, plus they were body-searched…


A press release from the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP), the Association of North African Workers in France (ATMF), the Democratic Immigration Development (IDD) and the Federation of Tunisians for Citizenship on Both Sides of the Shore (FTCR) –

A CIVIL MISSION COMPOSED OF JEWS AND ARABS FROM FRANCE COMES BACK FROM PALESTINE

The 166th civil mission of the CCIPPP (International Civil Campaign for the Protection of the Palestinian People) took place from the 23rd to the 30th of October and we have come back.

We entered just as we left – after having been controlled and humiliated (interrogations, body searches, waiting for two or three hours etc.) directed at most of the young people in our group, above all at the young Arabs. Many other internationals went through the same harassment. The State of Israel carries on a sharply focused policy of discrimination in order to discourage embarrassing witnesses.

Our group was made up of 28 French, Jews and Arabs, women and men, the young and the less young, from four non-religious associations –
— the Association of North African Workers in France (ATMF)
— the Federation of Tunisians for Citizenship on Both Sides of the Shore (FTCR)
— the Democratic Immigration Development (IDD)
— the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP)

To “live together in equality and justice” in France and elsewhere, our French, Jewish and Arab associations have woven solidarity and working ties between them, notably for justice in Palestine, for the rights of the Palestinians and against the Zionist colonial policies of Israel. A first civil mission of this type already took place in 2002. The 2010 mission closely knitted the group in a sincere friendship, with a common goal of multiplying contacts for testimonies. The group participated in the Worldwide Educational Forum at Ramallah, Al Araqib, Haifa and Bethlehem. In this as in all the rest, the AIC (Alternative Information Center, an association at the same time Palestinian and Israeli), played a major role.

We participated in the Opening March of the Forum at Ramallah and at the simultaneous opening in the Bedouin village of Al Araquib in the Negev Desert, and our Judeo-Arab workshops (“Education, Immigration and Development” and “Teaching Decolonization”) met with great success and incited many debates.

What shocked us the most is that Zionism has ended up as a veritable governmental racism, relayed by the settlers. A permanent racism, out in the open which, it seems to us, provokes a large consensus of opinion in Israel. A virulent racism, “normal”, that Israelis feel towards Palestinians, and also often towards Jewish Arabs, towards anyone who has southern or oriental features, towards Asian and African immigrants. This inversion of the situation – the Jews that like to think they’re heirs to genocide in Europe are transformed into revisionists of the Others’ humanity – shattered us.

In fact, what we observed is a low-intensity war of disastrous consequences. Confining the Palestinians, imposing immobility on them, encircling them with colonies, spatial occupation by Israelis, military incursions, humiliating behavior, the Wall of Shame and of separation, armed settlers, the omnipresence of the Israeli Army – all this renders life unbearable for the Palestinians.

But at the same time, they do all they can to make it appear bearable. Surveillance cameras are installed everywhere. Some checkpoints have disappeared – they don’t need them anymore ; the by-pass roads, the tunnels and bridges make it impossible for a Palestinian to come across an Israeli. They claim there is coexistence, when in reality it’s colonialist normality, gloom and hindrance for Palestinians. Society-killing is on the move. One square meter after another, the Israelis are stealing the land, pushing the Palestinians back, reducing their vital space, just like the American Indians on their reservations or the Aborigines of Australia.

Israelizing Palestinian lands, Judaizing Jerusalem has started, with a mixture of discretion and extreme brutality (as in the Silwan neighborhood in East Jerusalem), barely perceptible for an uninformed foreigner.

And don’t forget the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip, still being blockaded, where we couldn’t go, and also occupied Golan Heights. The mission went to East Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jenine, Haifa, Hebron, Bethlehem, Al Araquib, Ramallah, in the refugee camps etc.

We saw with our own eyes that Israel’s spatial and discriminatory policies are designed to prevent any just solution to the conflict, whatever option is envisaged. Most of the Palestinians, men and women, that we met do not believe (or not anymore) in a hypothetical viable Palestinian state alongside Israel. And a number of them have very hard words to say about the Palestinian Authority, which is seen as accompanying these Israeli policies.

The Palestinians of ’48 (those who are Israeli in spite of themselves) cannot put up anymore with being second-class citizens, still being allowed to vote but being submitted to discrimination (lodgment, education, health care, work, access to water, forbidden villages destroyed regularly etc.).

But every Palestinian is resisting. And persevering in the struggle whatever their future may be, for equality and rights, for the destruction of the Wall, the restitution of their lands, the return of the refugees, briefly, for a decolonization that will render their justice and their rights to the Palestinian people.

We also met Israeli Jews who know well that they’re in the minority but denounce, along with Palestinians, the crimes committed in their name. They do not want to renounce the hope to Live Together in Justice. All are basing a profound hope on the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions) Campaign under all its forms. For the academic boycott, anti-colonialist Israeli universities (participating in the Boycott from Within movement) are demanding that they be boycotted themselves.

The members of our mission are popularizing all over, in France and as best they can in North Africa, what they’ve seen and heard and will be calling on everyone to participate actively in the BDS Campaign.

Paris, November 4th 2010

Translated from french by William PETERSON


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