Monday, June 27, 2011

Shooting at Freedom Kites by Diana Alzeer

Last Friday in Nabi Saleh, we planned for a day of fun activities to take the minds of the village’s kids off occupation, tear gas, and the constant fear under which they live.

At 9:00 we began the day by calling on the kids of Nabi Saleh to join us to make and practice how to fly kites, dress in clown outfits and have their faces painted.

The kids came along; it felt amazing to see them happy, running around and sharing the idea of freedom in colors. A while after, towards 12:30, we decided to take the kids to the main hill in Nabi Saleh behind the gas station on the main road to fly the kites that some of us had spent all night making. We carried the kites and headed down the main road.

Each week on the road to Nabi Saleh, we are faced by closures and obstructions on the main roads and entrances to the village. We are usually handed a piece of paper and a map stating that this area is a closed military zone and accordingly we are not allowed to enter. We turn the car around and drive to some other villages in the area, where we park the cars. We then go hiking down the mountains and hills to reach the village of Nabi Saleh through the agricultural land behind the village.

This week however was different; for some reasons the IOF did not block the main road. All cars made it to the village without any problems. And all journalists and activists arrived to the center of the village harassment-free.

I naively thought that the Israeli Army would let this day pass peacefully. That day was meant for fun as the kids were supposed to be flying kites. As soon as some of us and the kids decided to walk towards the hill; crossing the main road of Nabi Saleh, we came face to face with IOF soldiers.

After three minutes of standing still, they then shouted with megaphones: “This is an illegal demonstration, go back to the village. This village is a closed military zonel; if you don’t turn around and go back to the village within 5 minutes, we will start shooting.” I look at the clown faces around me; the big colored smiles turns into sad faces. A little boy continues to try flying his kite in front of the fully armed soldiers, a few minutes later the shooting begins...

The kids, who had in their innocent minds and hearts high hopes of a fun day, were sadly disappointed. Everything collapsed as the happiness in their eyes turned to fear followed by confused tears and sighs.
No one escaped those tears. In the case of us adults, it was due to fear and gas; for the children it was fear, gas and disappointment.

I look around me and saw little Ahmad, who suffers from Down Syndrome, running up the main road. His face expressed a terrified looked, his shaky voice shouting as he pointed towards the soldiers and the gas. A good friend of mine, Ben, and I ran towards him. We provided him with a small piece of alcohol-soaked cotton to breathe through. Later on, Ben suggested that I walk the kid home.

That’s how the day continued. More gas, sound grenades and being shoved around. A group of the youth managed to get to the hill after 3 hours of face- to-face confrontation with the soldiers. They decide to rest under a large tree, and then started to sing. The IOF jeeps drove to the mountain and gassed the group–for singing under a tree!

I recall being in the house of a local family, using their internet connection to tweet updates of events happening in Nabi Saleh ,when little Spiderman (the “Super Hero” of Nabi Saleh) showed up carried by some of the activists, unable to breathe or speak–they have gassed him too. He later falls asleep like a little angel, exhausted from shouts, gas, sound grenades and much more.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Onions: The smell of freedom by Diana Alzeer

He ran towards us with a black piece of cloth wrapped around his mouth and nose, I could see his red eyes were about to pop out.  He handed my mom something, and pushed a smelly “thing” in my face; it smelled like onion, but I couldn’t tell for sure.

I was only 4 years old when I experienced tear gas for the first time.  I was confused–my blurry eyes didn’t help, nor did my runny nose.  I was worried about choking.  I looked up at my Mom, saw nothing but a blurry figure of her; I later on found out she was smelling an onion too.  I wanted to speak to her, say to her, “mom, help me, I can’t breathe….”

My heart rate goes up, I can feel it; I feel the beat in my eyes, my head is about to explode.  My mom’s arms are around me now, she pulls me up and starts running.  Someone stops us and I feel the exchange of my tiny body from mom’s arms to someone else’s arms.  I remember disliking the exchange but had no energy to speak up.

I later regain my sight.  I wonder what it is, this cool place with no smelly stuff.  A group of people are all sitting on the floor smelling onions too.  Why onions??  My little brain wonders if it’s some sort of onion festival.


We were walking toward the main taxi station in Nablus city, my hand holding tight to my mom’s when we saw some “Shabab” running around, screaming: “Run… Run, they are coming this way!”  My mom’s steps started  getting faster and faster.   Less than thirty seconds later, she stops to look down at me; my eyes lose it, I feel sick and the onion comes in.

That was my first experience of gas canisters and the “amazing feeling of it”.  Twenty years later,  here I am in Nabi Saleh, Bilin and Qalandia checkpoint, hand in hand with fellow friends.  The feeling is different.  Although tear gas does not feel any better, now it’s different–my feeling of it is different.

Having met a group of young Palestinians who share my thoughts, my beliefs on the non-violent struggle, and seeing them dedicated to the cause of freedom and justice for our beloved Palestine, invokes in me an exotic positive feeling in mind and soul.

My semi-weekly participation at weekly demonstrations, being there with my friends on the front line, gives me hope.  Hope for freedom.  I now feel it more than ever; I now believe it’s possible more than ever.

The rage  and furious demand of freedom in the eyes of those around me, those sharing the love of the land and people–whomever they are, wherever they come and whatever passports and nationalities they hold–makes the smell of tear gas acceptable, pleasant and enjoyable.

Two weeks ago, while holding an interview with a local activists from Nabi Saleh, the crew was gassed.  I looked around and there he was; little “Spider Man” of Nabi Saleh village, the adorable Samer–not older than four–looks at me petrified and runs home, where someone hands him a small onion to breathe on.

That’s when the flashbacks of my little trip to Nablus during the First Intifada had hit me.  “Spider Man” of Nabi Saleh probably views us at the Nabi Saleh demonstration just as I viewed the “Shabab” running toward me and my mom back then.

Do I accept for this little boy to live the same way I have lived?  No, of course not.  He is probably having a worse childhood than mine.  Having to get used to the smell of constant tear gas thrown at his house every week, having to smell the “Skunk” truck and run home hiding from the humiliation smell of it every week.  This is not even close to my childhood memories.

I do not want little “Spider Man” to live the years of my youth.  I want him free, I want him to have a normal teenage life in a free country where human rights and justice are present in each and every aspect of his life.  I do not want him to believe the smell of tear gas is normal, nor the smell of onions.

I believe that with the current wave of activism work in Palestine, the increasingly number of activists who believe in the cause and the non-violent resistance will turn the dream of freedom into reality.  I was never before so inspired to believe in the change coming our way as  I am now.

The spirit of and belief in freedom that I see in the eyes of those around me gives me a taste of freedom, not on the ground but rather in my heart and soul.  Waking up early enough on a Friday morning to be able to reach places like Nabi Saleh gives my soul a tremendous amount of hope.  And I see it coming, little Mr. “Spider Man”.  Do not worry–I smell freedom and you will live it.

A Letter to Linah

To Linah,

You’re part of us. We are part of you. Just wanted you to know that we all went through, and still do, the same with our parents. We understand the worries of our parents for their children. But our worry for Palestine is just greater. We understand very well that a lot of sacrifice has to be done. And we are ready to give these sacrifices. Our struggle is not for political solutions. Our struggle is for our rights. I for one have participated for the first time only in March 15. Not because I didn’t believe in the cause before that, but I just didn’t believe in the fruitless protests. I’ve been in hunger strike for 21 consecutive days (30 days in total) and slept on Al-Manara for more than 40 days. Not to get Hamas and Fateh to agree, but to unite the Palestinians here and in exile. That’s why our first demand was the PNC elections. The past 3 month of my life is more precious to me than the whole 25 years of my life. I met people that are the world to me. They’re not politicians they’re revolutionaries. The ladies who led the protests and the movement were an inspiration to me. I’ve witnessed first-hand the reason the word Freedom and the word resistance in Arabic are feminine.

We are still struggling. We see the light at the end of this dark tunnel. And we will reach there eventually. If we didn’t, having the honor of the attempt is enough for me. Other than the ladies, Abul Qasem El Shabbi was an inspiration to me.

I’m aware of all the opportunists around us. But I for one have taken the decision. I had two choices. One is to sit home go to my work get rich and my world would be revolved around me. Or the second was to stand up and make my world revolve around Palestine. I chose the second. I believe that the movement I’m part of now may not achieve our rights. But for the past 3 months I lived proud like I never did. I loved Palestine like I never did. And for the first time in my life, I don’t have dreams at night of what can I do to free Palestine. I’m living that dream. This is the first step. But I’m living it.

I’ve never loved in my life. So I was always shocked to see what people in love do. They go through useless hell to be together. My love is Palestine. And I’m willing to sacrifice everything for it. At the end, it’s not about how you die. It’s about how you live. If I ever had children, I would want them to talk about my actions to their peers, not repeat my words blindly.

Dear Linah, I was honored to meet you in Nabi Saleh. You showed extreme courage there. Hope to see you in front lines more. If I don’t, I know, we all know that our backs are safe with people like you.
Hopefully sooner rather than later we would be reminiscing about this in a free Palestine.

The belief is all I got now. I couldn’t convince my parents, but I surely live in peace with myself. If I die tomorrow, I will know that I have nothing to regret.

Stay safe and strong.
A Palestinian

Monday, June 13, 2011

Basem Tamimi's Speech to the Judge on his Trial

Your Honor,

I hold this speech out of belief in peace, justice, freedom, the right to live in dignity, and out of respect for free thought in the absence of Just Laws.

Every time I am called to appear before your courts, I become nervous and afraid. Eighteen years ago, my sister was killed by in a courtroom such as this, by a staff member. In my lifetime, I have been nine times imprisoned for an overall of almost 3 years, though I was never charged or convicted. During my imprisonment, I was paralyzed as a result of torture by your investigators. My wife was detained, my children were wounded, my land was stolen by settlers, and now my house is slated for demolition.

I was born at the same time as the Occupation and have been living under its inherent inhumanity, inequality, racism and lack of freedom ever since. Yet, despite all this, my belief in human values and the need for peace in this land have never been shaken. Suffering and oppression did not fill my heart with hatred for anyone, nor did they kindle feelings of revenge. To the contrary, they reinforced my belief in peace and national standing as an adequate response to the inhumanity of Occupation.

International law guarantees the right of occupied people to resist Occupation. In practicing my right, I have called for and organized peaceful popular demonstrations against the Occupation, settler attacks and the theft of more than half of the land of my village, Nabi Saleh, where the graves of my ancestors have lain since time immemorial.

I organized these peaceful demonstrations in order to defend our land and our people. I do not know if my actions violate your Occupation laws. As far as I am concerned, these laws do not apply to me and are devoid of meaning. Having been enacted by Occupation authorities, I reject them and cannot recognize their validity.

Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law.

We have the right to express our rejection of Occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.
The civil nature of our actions is the light that will overcome the darkness of the Occupation, bringing a dawn of freedom that will warm the cold wrists in chains, sweep despair from the soul and end decades of oppression.

These actions are what will expose the true face of the Occupation, where soldiers point their guns at a woman walking to her fields or at checkpoints; at a child who wants to drink from the sweet water of his ancestors' fabled spring; against an old man who wants to sit in the shade of an olive tree, once mother to him, now burnt by settlers.

We have exhausted all possible actions to stop attacks by settlers, who refuse to adhere to your courts' decisions, which time and again have confirmed that we are the owners of the land, ordering the removal of the fence erected by them.

Each time we tried to approach our land, implementing these decisions, we were attacked by settlers, who prevented us from reaching it as if it were their own.

Our demonstrations are in protest of injustice. We work hand in hand with Israeli and international activists who believe, like us, that had it not been for the Occupation, we could all live in peace on this land. I do not know which laws are upheld by generals who are inhibited by fear and insecurity, nor do I know their thoughts on the civil resistance of women, children and old men who carry hope and olive branches. But I know what justice and reason are. Land theft and tree-burning is unjust. Violent repression of our demonstrations and protests and your detention camps are not evidence of the illegality of our actions. It is unfair to be tryed under a law forced upon us. I know that I have rights and my actions are just.

The military prosecutor accuses me of inciting the protesters to throw stones at the soldiers. This is not true. What incites protesters to throw stones is the sound of bullets, the Occupation’s bulldozers as they destroy the land, the smell of teargas and the smoke coming from burnt houses. I did not incite anyone to throw stones, but I am not responsible for the security of your soldiers who invade my village and attack my people with all the weapons of death and the equipment of terror.

These demonstrations that I organize have had a positive influence over my beliefs; they allowed me to see people from the other side who believe in peace and share my struggle for freedom. Those freedom fighters have rid their conscious from the Occupation and put their hands in ours in peaceful demonstrations against our common enemy, the Occupation. They have become friends, sisters and brothers. We fight together for a better future for our children and theirs.

If released by the judge will I be convinced thereby that justice still prevails in your courts? Regardless of how just or unjust this ruling will be, and despite all your racist and inhumane practices and Occupation, we will continue to believe in peace, justice and human values. We will still raise our children to love; love the land and the people without discrimination of race, religion or ethnicity; embodying thus the message of the Messenger of Peace, Jesus Christ, who urged us to “love our enemy.” With love and justice, we make peace and build the future.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

رسالة الأسير باسم التميمي إلى قاضي المحكمة

حضرة القاضي

 انطلاقاً من ايماني بالسلام والعدل والحرية وحق الانسان والعيش بكرامة واحتراماً للعقل لعل المنطق يحضر اذا غاب القانون العادل .

في كل مرة ادعى لمحاكمكم أصاب بالتوتر والقلق والخوف فقبل (18) عاماً قتلت أختي في محكمة كهذه على يد موظفة كتلك كأحد فصول معاناتي من سياسات احتلالكم لأرضي وشعبي اعتقلت (9) مرات لما يقارب (3) سنوات لم أدان بأي تهمة وأصبت بالشلل من جراء تعذيب محققيكم سجنت زوجتي وجرح ابنائي وسرق المستوطنيين ارضي وبيتي مهدد بالهدم ، ولدت مع بداية الاحتلال بكل ما تعنيه الكلمة من معاني لا انسانسة وإنعدام الحرية والعنصرية وعدم المساواة كل ذلك الألم وكل ما نعانيه من سيطرة للاحتلال على تفاصيل حياتنا لم يؤثر على إيماني بالقيم الانسانية وضرورة أن يعم السلام على هذه الأرض لنبني حياتنا المستهاة واقع ورؤى، لم تولد المعاناة والقهر في قلبي الكراهية والحقد على احد او تعزز دوافع الانتقام من أي كان بل زاد إيماني بالسلام جواباً على شرط وجودنا الوطني كنقيد للاحتلال بكل سياساته وإفرازاته وأشكال وتعبيرات وجوده المخالف لكل معاني الانسانية فكل المواثيق والأعراف الدولية تقر بحق الشعوب المحتلة بالمقاومة لذلك دعوت ونظمت مسيرات شعبية سلمية تعبيراً عن رفض الاحتلال فكراً وممارسة وإحتجاجاً على اعتداءات المستوطنين وسرقتهم لاكثر من نصف أراضي قريتي "النبي صالح" التي تضم قبور اجاداي منذ زمن لا أعرفه، نظمت المظاهرات السلمية دفاعاً عن الأرض والإنسان لست محمياً ولا ادري ان كانت هذه التظاهرات تعتبر شرعية بحسب قوانين إحتلالكم لأن هذه القوانين ليست لي ولا تعنيني كونها صدرت عن سلطة أرفض وجودها على أرضي وشعبي وفي الوقت الذي تفتخرون فيه بكونكم الديمقراطية الوحيدة في الشرق الأوسط تحاكموني حسب قانون عسكري لا أرى له أي شرعية فهو ليس لي ولم يكن لي رأي في فحواه ، أتهم بتنظيم مسيرات سلمية وفعاليات مدنية ليس لهذا أي صفات او طوابع عسكرية تقرها كل الشرائع والقوانين الدولية فأين العدل والمنطق.

من حقنا أن نعبر عن رفضنا للإحتلال بكل أشكاله وتعبيرات وجوده على أرضنا دفاعاً عن حريتنا بكرامة شعبنا ولإحقاق العدل وبناء السلام من أجل أرضنا وحقنا المقدس فيها ومن أجل أطفالنا ومستقبلهم عليها لذا فإن إنسانسة دوافعي تجعلني أكثر إيماناً بالعدل والسلام مما يعزز ثقتي بشرعية اعمالي كنشاط شعبي سلمي غير مسلح يقوم ويؤمن به الشعب الفلسطيني ضد الإحتلال يقيد حياته لتكون النور الذي يبدد عتم الاحتلال حتى تشرق شمس الحرية وتطرد البرد الكامن بين القيد والرسغين وتزيل اليأس من الوجدان وتنهي عقوداً من المعاناة ليظهر هذا الاحتلال على حقيقته ، احتلال  يشهر جنوده أسلحتهم في وجه إمراة تسير نحو أرضها خلف الجدار والحاجز وطفل يريد ان يشرب من عين ماء حدثه جده عن عذوبة ماءها وشيخ يريد ان يجلس في ظل زيتونة هي أم قبل ان يحرقها المستوطنون ، لم نبدأ إلا بعد أن استنفذنا السبل لوضع حد لاعتداءات المستوطنين اللذين يرفضون الإلتزام بقرارات محاكمكم التي قررت المرة تلو الأخرى أننا أصحاب ألأراض وملاكها وأمرت بإزالة سياج وضعه المعتدين وفي كل مرة نذهب لتطبيق قرار محاكمكم يعتدي علينا المستوطنين يدخلوا أرضنا ويعملون فيها ونحرم نحن أصحابها من الوصول إليها ، يهاجمنا الجيش ويطردنا بكل عنف رغم أننا نطبق قراراً لقاضٍ ممكن أن يكون أستاذك في القانون أو زميلاً في الدراسة يهاجم من يريد تطبيق القرار ويدافع عن المعتدي الذي يستفزنا المرة تلو الأخرى يعمل يخرب ، يحرث ، ويقطع أشجارنا ويمنعنا من الوصول إلى مياهنا فما مسيراتنا إلا احتجاجاً على الظلم نتظاهر يد بيد مع الإسرائيليين والأجانب الذين يؤمنون أنه لولا الاحتلال لاستطعنا أن نعيش معاً على هذه الأرض بسلام ، لا أدري على ماذا ينص قانون جنرالاتكم المصابين بفوبيا الأمن وهستيريا الخوف وكيف يقيمون مثل هذه التظاهرات لأطفال ونساء وشيوخ عزل يحملون الأمل وأغصان زيتونة لم تحرق بعد وكلني أدري ما هو العدل وما هو المنطق سلب الأرض ونهبها وحرق أشجارها ليس عدلاً وقمع مسيراتنا واحتجاجاتنا بالعنف وشروط معتقلكم ليست أدلة ومن غير العدل أن أحاكم وفق قانون فرضته شرعية القوة ولكن أعلم أني صاحب حق والعدل ما أقوم به .

يتهمني المدعي العسكري بأنني حرضت أشخاص على ضرب الحجارة وهذا غير صحيح ، من حرض على ضرب الحجارة هو صوت رصاص وهدير بلدوزرات الاحتلال وهي تخرب الأرض ورائحة الغز ودخان البيوت المحروقة ، لم أدعوا أحد لضرب الحجارة ولكن لست مسؤولاً عن أمن جنودكم الذي يقتحمون قريتي ويعتدون على أهلي بكل أسحله القتل وأدوات الإرهاب .

إن هذه المسيرات أثرت وبشكل إيجابي على معتقداتي وغير الكثير حين لمست ووجدت في الطرف الآخر أناس يؤمنون بالسلام ويشاركوني النضال لأجل الحرية ، هؤلاء المناضلون لأجل الحرية اللذين زال الاحتلال من وعيهم فتكاثفت أيدينا في مسيرات سلمية ضد عدونا المشترك الاحتلال فأصبحوا أخوة وأصدقاء نكافح معاً من أجل غد مشرق لأطفالنا وأطفالهم فهل سأخرج وقد أقنعني القاضي في وجود عدل لم أره في محاكمكم مهما كان الحكم جائر أو عادل ومهما كانت ممارسات احتلالكم عنصرية ولا إنسانية سنبقى نؤمن بالسلام والعدل والقيم الإنسانية وسنربي أطفالنا على الحب حب الأرض والإنسان دون تمييز بلونه ودينه وعرقه لنجسد رسالة رسول السلام عيسى المسيح " أن أحبب عدوكم " بالحب والعدل نصنع السلام ونبني المستقبل .