Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reports from Andrew Pappone at Jenin

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.

Andrew Pappone

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.

Andrew Pappone

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eileen fleming said...

The Long Winding Way to My Interview with Members of the Underground Fatah Resistance Movement in Jenin Camp 23 July 2007:

My driver with VIP plates and I left Jerusalem at 9:45 AM and what had once been an hour and a half's drive took us nearly three, but the Palestinians we passed along the way stuck at the checkpoints might possibly still be waiting there...

Once we cleared Beirzeit, I took my first deep breath of fresh air and rested my eyes upon miles of mountain vistas of thousands of olive trees and a few Bedouins whose only shelter was a ripped plastic tent, and who were out grazing a small herd of sheep. There were scattered Arab homes, some quite palatial and then the familiar clumps of red roofed settlements built on the mountain tops and one mount occupied by a half dozen caravans/trailers: the first sign of a new colony.

When we got to the checkpoints, and only because we had the ‘right’ license plate, we were allowed to bypass the queue of scores of Palestinian cars and hundreds of individuals who waited underneath a metal enclosure like sardines in a tin can who are denied the freedom of movement. I wondered why there weren’t at the least explosions of temper, for if such a scene happened in America, there would be an incredible outrage.

Racism is visible on the front of every motor vehicle, for Palestinian plates are green with white numbers; Israelis are yellow with black and VIP cars white with black. The latter two get waved on through, but green and white means you wait, wait, and wait.

When we approached the checkpoint at Wad Elbedar Valley, my driver confessed his anxiety, “I am very afraid of the Israeli’s but also this is dangerous territory; Nablus, Jenin and Qalquiylia.”

I smile and tell him, “Relax, we are doing nothing wrong and I am on a mission from God.”

The soldier who looked about twelve took my passport as I smiled my biggest smile at him.

“Where are you from?”

“America, I help pay your salary. Where are you from?”


“You were born here?”

“Yes, Haifa.”

“Nice place.”

“Yes, very nice and what are you doing here?”

“I am visiting a priest in Zababdeh.”

“Okay, enjoy.”

“Thanks, bye bye.”

My driver then tells me, “The original plan was to take you only part way and then pass you onto a Palestinian driver, but you would be sitting in the line for hours, just like every Palestinian.”

In the West Bank there are no road signs, so at every fork in the road, my driver repeatedly flagged down taxi’s who all willingly stopped and graciously directed us the way we should go.

Ten minutes from Zababdeh, the priest I was to meet, pulls out in front of us and leads us the rest of the way to his home and church grounds, where the very first and only Olive Trees Foundation Olive Grove and Children Park took root in 2005. I have been to the property three times now, and my first time was as the Christian delegate for the non-profit Olive Trees Foundation for Peace, dedicated to raising awareness about the trees destroyed by The Wall and raising funds to help replant them.

After we greeted each other, I asked, “How did you just so happen to be on the road when we were passing through?”

“The Holy Spirit directed me,” he replied with a smile.

My second visit to the priest’s home and church was on March 14, 2006, as a member of a Sabeel [Arabic for The Way] reality tour through the West Bank. That was the very same day that the Israeli Defense Forces/IDF stormed the Jericho prison and the Al Aqsa Brigade issued a warning and demanded that all USA and British citizens immediately vacate the West Bank or they would be abducted.

Ahmed Sa’adat and four other Palestinians had been detained at the Jericho Prison since 2002, despite a court decision ordering their release. They were accused of assassinating the former Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001. They had been detained under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority under the supervision of guards provided by the UK and USA in accordance with an agreement reached between the British, USA, Israel and the PA.

It was immediately after the withdrawal of the American and British troops that the raid took place. The guards had announced their intention to withdraw from the prison but they made no alternative arrangements for their absence. The IDF then began their assault in the absence of any alternative safety-nets. After the American and British forces abandoned the Jericho prison and the IDF showed up demanding Saadate come out with his hands up, rumors began flying throughout the West Bank that the Third Intifada had begun.

Our group had also planned to be in Jericho the very next day, but as John Lennon sang, "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." We did.

Our group learned the news of Jericho while we were breaking bread with the Christians in the village of Zababdeh. Our Sabeel group had been advised by the locals that although we were perfectly safe with them, we should leave the West Bank ASAP and forget about our plans to visit the Jenin Refugee Camp and our meeting with Badil: the Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.

Before we left for Nazareth instead, we learned that there are 5,000 Christians left in all of the northern West Bank. 3,500 are in Zababdeh and over one million Muslims surround them. The priest affirmed, “We all have lived in peace together for centuries. We need your love, we need your presence. We need your eyes and voices to share with the world the suffering of our people. We need you to come and see how we carry the Cross of Christ for we are the Living Stones; the forgotten one’s whose destiny is to love everyone, be they Jew, Muslim, Druze. We practice the love of our Lord and we ask you to tell your government Palestinians are people of peace!”

On July 23, 2007 my plan was to finally see the Jenin refugee camp and within three minutes of my arrival the priest’s best friend, a Muslim drove up and invited me to go and see the facts on the ground in the 100% Muslim, Jenin refugee camp with hope to meet some of the Fatah underground.

In the car, the priest tells me, “There are 2,500 Christians now left in Zababdeh and just over 1,000 Muslims and we have always gotten along. Whenever I have a problem here, I go to Jenin and get help there.”

We traveled past the five years young American Arab University where medical and law students from Israel and Palestine study together. The priest informs me, “We are suffering now. The Israelis denied to renew the visas for the American teachers because they do not like them opening America’s eyes. The teachers tell all about the suffering, hunger and anger of the occupied.”

Jenin refugee camp is home for nearly 20,000 Palestinians who share one square kilometer of land. Within seconds of stopping the car on one of the winding narrow alleys, an elderly woman in the typical Muslim dress approaches us with a broad smile and immediately invites us all to her home for coffee and lunch.

People who actually know Palestinians are well aware of their hospitality and desire to feed one. We thankfully decline as we are on the way to meet 40 year old Krozow, number two leader of El Katib; the underground resistance movement within the Fatah party.

In English, Krozow translates to “good fighter” and Fatah stands for Palestinian Liberation Movement. A new logo has replaced the former depicting two hands holding two guns; to two hands, with one hand holding one gun and the other hand holding an olive branch in memory of Arafat’s pledge at the UN, “Don’t let me drop this olive branch, don’t let me drop this olive branch, don’t let me drop this olive branch!”

Krozow was 16 the first time he was sent to prison for throwing rocks in 1985. He was released in ’88 and resumed his resistance to the occupation and was sent back to jail from 1990-1994, when he was released under the Oslo accords.

Krozow greets us warmly and his beautiful smiling children keep entering the room to look at me, for red blonde hair is a rarity in occupied territory. Krozow patiently and lovingly hugs them all and picks them up in a bear hug and with a broad smile, deposits them back outside the living room door. He returns with water, then after another child enters the room, he repeats the ritual but this time returns with coffee, the third time with orange soda.

He informs me, “Last week Israel and Abbas agreed that 232 persons here would hand over our weapons. We did and Israel agreed that they would not attack the camp. Yesterday the soldiers came and shot out the street lights. The children watched from the windows and saw it all. They also saw when the Israelis shot and burned up an ambulance and the man inside died. What can children think when they must see these things?

“The camp is a warm place because children dream of freedom. My son is 4 years old and he knows all about weapons. All his words are about the Israelis attacking us and Apache helicopters that drop bombs. Children all over the world get to go play outside, but here all they see are soldiers who come every day to terrorize.

“We are not violent people, but we do resist the occupation, as is our right. What if Russia came to occupy American, wouldn’t you fight? I support Abbas, but he believes in negotiations, I believe in resisting the occupation. Abbas is the political Fatah, they drive Mercedes and roll up their windows and shutout the suffering of the people. I am dedicated to the people and to protecting them from the IDF. We are people under occupation and we would all love to have our children grow up free and live like children anywhere else in the world, who can play outside, go swimming and not have to see soldiers all the time. The Israeli’s tell the world we are violent, but we are only against their occupation. What if Russia came and occupied America, wouldn’t Americans resist?

“Hamas sends people out to Israel and targets civilians. The underground Fatah movement does not do that, we defend our home ground against Israeli forces. I take care of my family, home and community. I do not target innocent people.

“Last week Abbas told us to surrender our weapons and the PA would take care of the people. I surrendered all I had except for this one hand gun, for my personal safety against the Israelis. Every night I leave my home and sleep in the Mukatar [Palestinian government building in Jenin City].

“We have every right to live like the Israelis. My dream is for a viable Palestinian state, but they have cut up the West Bank and the only way to solve the problem is to give Palestinians the right to live like human beings everywhere else in the world, the right to our land, to move with freedom, the right to a good life like the Israelis.

“I have no hope for the immediate future, but I have hope for my children that American taxes will stop going to buy Apache helicopters that bomb them. My dream is that there will be a political agreement between Israel and Palestine and so all children can live in peace. Our relationship with Christians is we are brothers. We are looking to have peace with all the sons of Abraham.”

I stand to thank him for his time and his mobile phone rings. It is Zechariah the number one commander of the underground El Katib Fatah resistance movement and he has agreed to speak with me, in the proverbial “five minutes.” In Palestine five minutes can easily take hours, but I sit back down and Krozow brings the fruit out. After a forty minute wait another phone call and the message received is to leave the camp and drive to where Zechariah is staying that day.

The priest tells me, “Zechariah is number one on the wanted list by the Israelis. He is the top man in Jenin and spends his day solving many of the social problems. His mother and brother were both murdered by the Israelis and his three brothers are in prison. Abbas has asked for his support, for Abbas is very worried about Hamas. Hamas has a very different way of thinking and we don’t hate them, but we hate the way they deal with the issues. No one is born a killer and violence only makes more violence. The stupidest thing Palestinians did was pick up weapons. The second stupidest thing they did was target innocent people.”

We arrive in the home of one of Zechariah’s assistant’s who informs me, “My roof is higher than the roof of Oslo. Your government is controlled by the Zionist agenda. What Americans see on TV and read in the paper is controlled by the Zionist agenda and it is not the truth of what we live and what we are like and what we want. We are living an existence under occupation for 40 years now. All occupied people have been liberated, except the Palestinians. America liberated herself from Britain and we have every right to a free life. We are a resistance movement and Israel calls it terrorism, but we call it resisting occupation.

“The resistance has no strategy to fight Israel and destroy it, or end their existence. Our resistance message to the whole world is that we are people existing under occupation and we can only exist by resisting.

“The more powerful one is the one who must make peace and that is Israel, it is up to them. The weak cannot bring peace and we are not talking peace between nations but between governments. The Holy Land always had all three religions; this land is holy to all the sons of Abraham. Religions idea is suitable for one state, but the political situation doesn’t make it possible. There is no disagreement between the Christians and Muslims here, but we do disagree with the Christians in the U.S.A. who do not come here and see the truth!

“It is wrong news that Jenin is a terrible place to come and visit. What happened in Gaza with Alan Johnston [kidnapped journalist] is not the true Palestinian culture. We are hospitable and it is not our culture to kill.

“My message to the American government is that Arab people do not trust you. You asked for democratic elections and you don’t support the suffering people, you support only Israel. Palestine is a very holy place for Jews, Christians and Muslims and there is no future for the West Bank if it remains under occupation. What we want is freedom from occupation; we want our land, water and refugee rights.”

After coffee and fruit juice, but no sign of Zachariah who was busy dealing with many of the social problems of the people of Jenin, I thanked the ten men who had gathered with me and my three escorts in the living room for their time and information and my driver and I headed back to Jerusalem and some more eye opening checkpoint experiences.

At the Wad Elbedar Valley checkpoint the line of cars extended around the mountain, but my driver passed by and pulled in front of the first in line and we were almost immediately waved into the checkpoint area and after the usual questions of where I am from and why had I come, the soldier handed me back my passport with, “Welcome to Israel.”

After passing through the checkpoint we joined four lines of cars at least a mile long waiting to be funneled into one. It took 30 minutes for us to reach the road home, but the other four lanes of cars waiting to go where we had come from, never moved at all. The people passed their time visiting each other and laughing. I asked my driver to ask one of them how long they had been waiting, “They don’t pay attention to the time, this is normal procedure.”

When we reached the Nablus checkpoint the cars stretched at least a half a mile long and there was no side road for NGO’s and VIP’s, so my driver went down the rocky pitted path and reached a phalanx of rolled barb wire. Somehow, he was able to maneuver around it and turn onto the road first in line at the checkpoint. We waited ten minutes but the soldiers never waved us on, so I got out and walked over to them. They appeared stunned as I approached and announced, “Hi, I am U.S.A. and need to get back to Jerusalem. Can’t you wave us through already?”

As soon as I did, we got the wave and with my biggest smile I handed over my passport as he asked, “Why are you here?”

“To visit with a priest.”

He replied with a smile, “Have a nice day.”

Eileen Fleming,

Reporter and Editor WAWA:

Author "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"

Producer "30 Minutes With Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"

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