(this includes Balata camp) has been closed to the outside world for a over
a month now and that there is a 10pm curfew also in operation. There has
been a frequent killings - a 15 year old boy two days ago. We were told
that things were very tense here, and that we had no hope of getting in
unless we came over the mountains.
We travelled first to Ramallah (there is a very big checkpoint there) and
changed cars twice more on the main road to Nablus. Our last driver was
taking a big risk and would have been imprisoned if caught, so at the
designated point we had to move fast from the car and scramble up the
mountain side as quickly as we could. We were a group of 15 and could have
been easily spotted. (We found out this afternoon that 7 people coming for
the demonstration we arrested and detained early this morning at the same
place. So alternative mountain routes are being tried).
It was mid-day by now and about 35-40 degrees - no one was sure but we all
agreed it was VERY hot!! After half an hour walking we were told that
drivers from the Nablus side were coming to get us - Hurrah! (some people
were lugging suitcases!!). A family on the mountain offered us shade and a
chance to wash and have water. The ride down the mountain was enough
excitement for a week, and it's a story in itself, lets just say that those
drivers deserved a medal for getting us down alive!
Nablus is a bustling big city, which makes the closure of it even worse, so
many ordinary people are being affected, it really is collective punishment
- something illegal under the Geneva Convention.
But it was wonderful to be here, and talk to people, whose spirit seems
We went staight to Balata Camp and met with the Palestinian ISM
co-ordinators and many of the other ISMers who had come from the other
regions for todays action. there were about sixty in all.
Every one was very nervous and jumpy as up to now all previous
demonstrations in the past month had ended in Palestinian deaths.
We were asked if we were arrestable as many Internationals lately had been.
(Being arrested is quite a safe thing to happen to Westerners - a little
mental/emotional strss, that's all, but for a Palestinian it means minimum 6
months detention, frequent beatings, interrogantion, sleep deprivation and
other forms of torture, and that's for being part of a peaceful protest!).
I didn't mind being arrested but I would have been deported after 3 days and
so would have been back in Swanea by Friday!! As you can see though - I
wasn't. In fact today the Israeli Army, Border Police and Special Forces
were on their best behaviour and the onions handed around on the buses (for
the tear-gas) wasn't needed!
There were about 200 Palestinians and 50 Internationals, and we occupied the
Awara check-point for over an hour. The Palestinians felt that to have
stayed longer would have led to an escalation of the tension, ending in
violence so we slowly withdrew. Everyone was elated and Reuters and CNN
were there - but more importantly I am learnning - is that local TV covers
actions like these as they keep moral high.
But to be up close to a heavily armed soldier with his rubber-bullet
attachement fixed to his weapon wasn't pleasant. The only negative thing for
us lot was that we were all photographed so getting out could be a problem
- it could be up that mountain again! (I think I would have rathered the
People returned to Jenin and Tulkaram this afternoon and those of us left
(20+)will be going to a village not far away to help the Palestinian
villagers dismantle a road-block. I am also planning to visit Omar's
(ex-ISM co-ordinator for NAblus/Balata now forced to live in London) family
This is a wonderful country, and the people couldn't be friendlier despite
everything (or maybe because of it!). But it is quite heartbreaking to be a
witness to their daily humiliations, when all they want is their country
back and an end to 37 years of military occupation by a foreign power. No
other country in the world could get away with what Israel is doing to these
people. And if anyone is wondering about 'suicide bombers' - there was no
such thing before Israel invaded in 1967, and not for decades after.
Sorry about the little rant, but little kids at checkpoints (no older than
my gran-kids) chanting 'we want to be free' just choked me.
On Thursay we are heading to a village north of Jenin to start the Walk on
d. - having a wonderful experience in Palestine.