Diane Adkin, of Portland, Ore., US Sales Coordinator for Canaan Fair Trade - http://www.canaanfairtrade.com/ - shared a series of reports from Andrew Pappone. Drew is a Reed College graduate who studied the Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) for his anthropology degree - http://www.palestinefairtrade.org/
Drew has spent the past two months in Jenin, working for the PFTA. You can find all his correspondence of the web site of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) - www.auphr.org
Here are two of Drew's reports.
February 5, 2008
A few days ago, the Israeli Army came to the office building housing the Palestine Fair Trade Association and demolished an adjacent store. At about 7 pm on Friday, February 2, the IDF came to Jenin City Center with several Jeeps and Hummers, pulled up outside the building and proceeded to take the store apart. They ripped down the door, smashed windows on the adjoining grocery store, and ripped down the awning on most of the building. By the time I got to the office the next day, the demolished store was empty, with nothing but a broken door, toilet, and other debris scattered on the floor. No one here knows exactly what the soldiers were allegedly looking for, or if they found whatever it was, but everyone is in pretty unanimous agreement that no matter what they were hoping to find, it wasn't on the awning they ripped down, or in the toilet pipe they ripped up, or in the glass of the windows they smashed.
In other news, Israeli soldiers killed three Palestinians in a nearby village yesterday.
I found out about the three murdered Palestinians when I returned from Ramallah early in the morning. When I got out of the bus in Jenin, I was surprised to hear a lot of gunfire in the streets and went to investigate its source. There was a crowd of about 400 people, two ambulances, and a 23-year-old boy wrapped in a flag, being carried down the middle of the road. Other young men walked alongside the body, firing M-16s and Kalashnikovs in the air. Many in the crowd were distraught and glancing at their faces, it seemed that all many of them could do was stare blankly into space.
To an American like myself, perhaps the most surprising part of all of this was the response of the general population to the news and the following funeral. Of course, things like this are not a part of my life in the United States. It's not normal for three kids my age to get killed by an occupying force or for people with Islamic Jihad headbands to march through the streets shooting automatic weapons. And it shouldn't have to be a part of anyone's life. But when I spoke to people about the event, who ranged in age from 14-40, all of them told me "It's normal", or, "This happens every day in our lives". Which means that every day three bereaved fathers bend down in the street to kiss the forehead of their recently murdered son, and five year old kids, clutched tightly by their mothers, shutter as automatic gunfire reverberates through the streets and dead bodies can be seen amongst a crowd of people.
Growing up surrounded by such events, it's no wonder that an estimated 90% of children in surrounding refugee camps have psychological symptoms closely related to those of post-traumatic stress disorder. But as many human rights workers in the area are quick to point out, there is a difference between the situation of young Palestinians with some form of PTSD and, say, veterans of the Vietnam War. Whereas American soldiers know there is a better life than the one they experience in war and don't think of the combat situation as "normal", for young Palestinians there is no other, more normal daily experience. They live through these types of events everyday, until the events themselves give the situation the sense of "normalcy" it inevitably takes on. The battle to take the sense of normalcy away from these events, to make them more unusual than usual, will be even more difficult than removing some of the facts on the ground that catalyze the events in the first place. But it's a battle worth fighting and one that doesn't mean taking lives, as much as it means giving them back.
Feb. 20, 2008
Well, spring has definitely arrived in Palestine. Besides the unseasonably cold rain/snowfall we had a couple days ago, the sun is warmer, and the skies are drier than they were a month ago. Space heaters have even become less necessary, which makes life much more pleasant.
Nobody ever talks about the fields of wildflowers in the West Bank (I realize of course, that I am as big an offender as any). The fields seem to change color every day, with new wildflowers surrounding the olive trees. These beautiful, pastoral scenes are almost enough to make one forget the surrounding problems.
I would like to devote this last newsletter to something slightly more uplifting than my past topics, and try my hardest to leave Palestine with some shreds of hope still remaining in my head.
In past issues, I have mentioned Jenin Refugee Camp, the home of about 30,000 people who lost their homes in 1948 and 1967, and now live with the daily threat of violent Israeli military incursions. The streets, once winding, narrow alleys reminiscent of crowded markets in Syria or Egypt, were rebuilt (after they were destroyed by the IDF in 2002) to be wide enough for tanks (mandated by Israel). The violence in the camp has left around 95% of the children with some form of post-traumatic stress syndrome. But I said I was going to be uplifting. In the face of this, there is an amazing program that has been designed to give the children of the camp alternative outlets and ways to express themselves. The Freedom Theatre - www.freedomtheatre.org - runs art, theater, and computer projects in the camp, involving a few hundred children directly, and hundreds more in the audiences of plays the theatre produces. The theatre believes that the Palestinians are engaged in a sort of two-prong intifada, on both cultural, and military levels. The theatre focuses on combating the effects of the cultural intifada, simultaneously giving children peaceful ways to deal with the violence in their daily lives, and preserve their culture and traditions.
Interestingly, the theatre was started by an Israeli Jew, Arna Mer Khamis, who, in 1948, was a member of the Jewish Youth Brigades, and rode in Jeeps through the streets of Tel Aviv, proclaiming the victories of Zionism. Later, Arna had a change of political views as she saw the Israel she fought for grown increasingly more brutal, land-hungry, and abusive to its neighbors. She started the theatre in the late 90s but the theatre was shut down and then destroyed by the Israeli Army in 2002, shortly after Arna died of cancer. In 2005, Arna's son, Juliano, reopened the theatre and it has been operating successfully ever since.
If peace is achieved in Palestine, it won't be because of the politicians and United States-led peace talks. Peace will be a result of projects like the Freedom Theatre and the people who are involved in their programs.
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