Saturday, January 3, 2009

"it has begun"

(this post was started on the 4th)

i attended 2 protests yesterday against the war in gaza - the first in sakhnin and then we got on a bus and headed to the one in tel aviv.

sakhnin is an arab town in the northern part of israel. the residents there although technically israeli citizens are not treated as such. israel has taken the land surrounding the town, literally on each of the edges - there is an army base, an industrial center, and an olive grove. the residents feel strangled - their town hasn't been able to expand since the nakba (disaster) of '48. the young adults of the town are forced to move out because of no space to live and the land available is too expensive for anyone to afford and no one can find jobs. i met with a resident of the town, mustafa, who gave me the history and provided me with a indispensable resource during the demonstration. he told me this is typical of arab towns within israel. the arab residents are not allowed to work within certain jobs - such as electricity, and they are not given the same support theough funding for infrastructure as jewish israeli residents. and as they are forced to move out into jewish communities they often suffer from severe racism.

on the way isralei police were everywhere in large numbers.

the march was peaceful and huge - i could not see either end the entire time i was there. mustafa said it was the largest seen in sakhnin. there were palestinian protest chants of - "gaza - don't be shaken "be still", "let us change, let us change - the law of the jungle", "you have taken our land, our freedom, even though we bleed we keep fighting", etc. i heard there was an estimated 10,000 people at it, but little to no coverage of it internationally. i found an article on it linked to the right. it was quite amazing to be a part of. it's hard to describe the feeling of love and truth that was felt in solidarity asking for peace and an end to killing.

from there there was a bus leaving for the rally that night in tel aviv, i went with my new friend mirja with a group of arab-israeli protestors. the entire way down we sang the songs i have come to recognize of palestinian spirit not easily defeated. the march in tel aviv had a much different feel and i'm thankful for being able to experience both. in tel aviv the chants were for peace not war and unity of palestine and israel. people threw eggs from there apartments that overlooked the streets and there were small groups of counter-protestors waving the israeli flag in a manner that reminded me of a young child throwing something in the face of another. and although the protest just asked for peace and the end to killing the counter-protestors were vehemently yelling at us. but the israeli army and police present did a good job of keeping them seperated and quiting them down. but at the end when we gathered at the cinematech were the buses were parked we seperated from the group to find our bus with an arab friend muofa (sp?) he had a sign about no blood of the children being spilled. we were standing by the buses - just the 3 of us when some of the counter-protestors started coming. at first it was just a few. they would pass us and then look back and after reading his sign started yelling at us - "go to gaza", "fuck you". if only they knew i would go to gaza if i thought i would be let in and thought i might be able to offer help or bring supplies. i just responded with one of the few words i know - shalom, which pissed them off even more. then i got a little worried as more came and started climbing over a fence and trying to push through a locked gate. more and more of them yelled at us so we made our way back to the bulk of the protestors as the israeli police came to keep the counter-protestors back.

when we got in the bus to return it was slow going and the pro-israeli flag wavers follwed our buses and spit on us while yelling many things i couldn't interpret but got the gist of. the held up there middle fingers, held there hands around there crotches, and slit at their throats towards us. it was intensely disgusting, just because we ask for people not to be killed. it allowed me to see the underlying aggression that allows for such wars to be waged. how much hate. when i returned to where i was staying i was told - "it has begun". they had entered gaza with ground troops on the day of the protests - what assholes. so as internationally the cry of outrage is rising israel contends that its actions are defensive. but i just learned today that they had created a replica of gaza to train troops in weeks ago - BEFORE the end of the cease fire. so as far as i can tell they were just waiting for any excuse to enter.

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