Sunday, August 28, 2011

A First Person Account of Al Quds Day at Qalandiya by Amra Amra (via The Palestine Monitor)
Photo by Silvia Boarini

As I approached Qalandiya checkpoint, the anticipation and uncertainty overwhelmed me. I distinguished familiar houses and shops in which we sought refuge from the Israeli forces on the protests of 15 May and 5 June. At one particular point, as we drew nearer to the checkpoint, I recognized a distinct smell. I immediately turned to my friend and asked if she also smelled the toxic tear gas. She looked at me and nodded in agreement.

But it turned out that our imagination had just gotten ahead of the both of us.

Being the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, our spirits were high: our goal was to reach Jerusalem on the launch of the Olive Revolution. This seemed impossible, as we were all well aware of the excessive restrictions that prevent Palestinians from entering the city due to the Apartheid policies imposed and the transformation of the city as a result of Judaization. Yet this did not stop us from our attempt to enter our sacred city that has been stolen from us.
Photo by Silvia Boarini.

While we gathered in preparation for the protest, the imam called out and the worshippers gathered to pray. Soon after the prayer concluded, the protesters chanted and demanded their freedom, justice, and an end to the Israeli occupation. We stood there for nearly thirty minutes with the deployed Israeli soldiers who barricaded us.

Many of them were in their late teens, carrying oversize weapons. As I stood there chanting loudly with fellow activists, I couldn’t help but feel pity towards the soldiers. They stood and merely watched us chant, waiting for an order to act. Some had smirks on their faces and one took pictures of the protesters.

Yet their desire to instigate fear did not move us. We stood firmly, demanding the rights that all humans are entitled to: the basic rights that the Palestinians have been deprived of for over 60 years; the rights that we have been demanding and will continue to demand until they are restored.
Photo by Silvia Boarini.

As we were face to face with the Israeli soldiers, I noticed two of them who were whispering and plotting their next move. I made sure to relay the message to those near me; they were already aware and hurriedly prepared to wrap their scarves around their faces.

In a matter of seconds, people started shoving and pushing trying to get away from the toxic gas and sound bombs that were thrown our way. As I shouted for those near me not to panic and to stay calm, I realized maybe they had the right idea, considering a canister was thrown in my direction and the gas soon engulfed me.
Photo by Silvia Boarini.

Within a matter of seconds after inhaling the gas, the effects overwhelmed me. I blindly stumbled through the insane traffic trying to catch my breath and find a sense of direction, which was quite difficult. All I remember were horns beeping and me trying to open my eyes to guide me to safety.

Soon after we regained composure and realized the protest was over, we unenthusiastically decided to head home. However, ended up at the barrier where we were earlier. We did not want to leave. Several of us began chanting “Free Free Palestine!” As Palestinian worshippers returning from Jerusalem passed by, we chanted and called for them to join us, unfortunately to no avail. Before leaving, a courageous and spirited individual stood and boldly told the Israeli soldiers that we will not give up and that our struggle will continue.

I am proud to say, that yesterday we determinedly stood up for what we aspire to achieve. What we are calling for are the rights of all Palestinians. Unfortunately these ‘rights’ have been tailored to suit the Israeli-created identities of a ‘West Banker’, ‘Gazan’, ‘Jerusalemite’, ‘Palestinian living in the occupied land of 1948’, and refugee. These terminologies have only served as obstacles which divide us and lead us off the path of our struggle. What puzzles me and many others is that while we call for the collective rights of all Palestinians, only a selected few participate.

An image that has been engraved in my mind is that of a mother and young boy trying to pass the barrier to enter Jerusalem. The mother effortlessly attempted to persuade the child who appeared to be seven or eight to pass the barricade and not be afraid of the Israeli forces. As she was pulling him by the arm, I couldn’t help but notice that he was helplessly crying as he dragged his feet in an attempt not to pass the barricade. The fear that was in his eyes served as a solid reminder of the impact that occupation has on the lives of many. I only hope one day he will grow up to be one of the many, not few, who strive for the rights all Palestinians.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Olive Revolution: We'll keep on going! (Via Palestine Youth Voice)

Palestinian youth have marched today to knock on the doors of Jerusalem. They marched to knock down the apartheid on their land. And under the title of "Olive Revolution" it was. Palestinians denied entry to Jerusalem held their Friday prayers in front of the military checkpoints.

In the morning, the presence of the PA security forces was exceptional. They were not present to protect the Palestinians from an Israeli attack. They were present to collaborate with the Israeli soldiers who were denying Palestinians the right to pray in Jerusalem on the last Friday of Ramadan. The image of a two Palestinians wearing their formal kaki uniform standing inches in front of the Israeli army, checking Palestinians IDs was very hurting.

The Palestinians denied from entering to Jerusalem held their prayers in front of the fully armed soldiers. After finishing their prayers, they stood up high chanting and screaming out loud. That loud voice that the Israeli brutality has failed to shut down.

Despite the few numbers of youth and activists present, it was a very hopeful scene. The demonstration gathered Palestinians from the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. It gathered them all standing and screaming out loud, we're ONE PEOPLE. We fight for ONE CAUSE. Nothing will split us anymore.

The numbers of protesters were much lower than their numbers in the June 5th and May 15th marches, but the numbers actually standing face to face with the soldiers were higher. About 100 to 150 protesters were standing in the front line compared to the dozens in June 5th and May 15th.

The Palestinian tweeps were all present. They were all very courageous. They were not satisfied with their cyber presence. They went down to the street at the time others preferred to remain locked up in their rooms re-tweeting them. There are two kind of people, one that make history, other that follow it.

The youth who were standing there were the regulars in the popular resistance. The youth that keep coming week after week. Is it an addiction to the toxic gas? Maybe. But for sure they have an addiction to the act of freedom.

These young ladies whom I heard chanting in March 15, they're the same courageous ladies chanting weekly in Nabi Saleh, and again they're still the same ones who screamed the hell out of their vocal cords today. And week after week they bring more hope to me. These are the core of the revolution.

The revolution does not start with the masses. It starts with the few courageous. And it eventually triumph with the masses. But the revolution in Palestine have already started months ago. People will just start noticing it as it grows larger. It's like the Anemone in Palestine. It starts growing in winter but people start appreciating it in spring.

A courageous young lady screamed at the soldiers before we head home: "We don't fear you, and we will keep on coming." We certainly will. And the Olive Revolution will keep on going. Despite the enemies we'll come. Despite the attempts to frustrate us, we'll keep on coming. The revolution is not a must, it's a choice. We already made our choice. Alone or with the masses, we'll keep on marching towards our rights. If we don't succeed we at least have the honor of the attempt.

Long Live Palestine.