Ramallah: City in rage

It is becoming more and more difficult to write as Israel’s war crimes start to become known to the public. I started this day by distributing an article written almost a year ago. Let me draw your attention to another one I wrote, again about a year ago. No updates needed.

To add insult to injury in the news today, we are hearing the the US Congress is calling for more pressure on Arafat. Also, Secretary of State Powell is now repeating that he needs to discuss and understand the timetable of General Sharon regarding ending the re-occupation of Palestinian cities and camps. What a difference 10 days of AIPAC can do to a superpower! On top of all this breaking news in Israel a few hours ago reported this:

20:41 Ben-Eliezer tells Labor ministers: IDF operation in West Bank could last “between 10 days and forever” (Haaretz)

This came coupled with Sharon’s in-your-face statement tonight saying he plans to continue his operations. So much for Bush’s “I meant what I said, and said what I meant.”

We were released from our cages (homes) today for 3 hours while the 24hr shoot-to-kill Israeli was lifted. This now happens every 3 days in Ramallah, not Nabus. The damage here is immense. Jenin and Nablus and Bethlehem are even worse. I spoke to a reporter that that made it into Nabus yesterday, he also covered Sarajevo and he bluntly told me that the damage is comparable!

In Ramallah, we were out trying to shop for dwindling essentials in the market place. A group of 20 or so Palestinians, mostly women, joined at city center and started chanting slogans in support of Jenin Camp, the Palestinian city that is hemorrhaging as I write. Israeli tanks and soldiers positioned 50-75 meters away flooded the area with tear gas and later with live ammunition. The streets were packed. We all ran. I passed a 20-25 yr old girl who went hysterical from fear and choking. We were in the Al-Bireh open market. As I approached her she fainted. We took her in an open shop and brought her around…the gas was overwhelming.

Life really is a full circle. It was only back in 1988 I, along with a handful of other activists, were chained to the gate of Federal Labortories in Saltsbug, PA - the company that produces and exports the deadly CS tear gas. Today, I had the unpleasant experience of being a user of their products. I guess they can care less that the gas was used in closed areas and around children in violation of US law….I guess our first lawsuit that was dismissed after several legal battles on a technicality needs to be re-started. By the way, the technicality was that the suit was filed by the family of a Palestinian who died fro the gas in the first Intifada. The State Dept got involved and ruled that Palestinians are stateless, thus could not file in US courts..the judge acted to dimiss the case. The firm did halt exports to Israel for 6-months while the case was being prepared.

We heard a rumor that 8 new decomposing bodies were found today in commercial buildings in Ramallah but were unable to verify. Today, we also buried a young man, newly wed Kamal Badran 26, from Al-Bireh who was killed during the last lifting of the curfew - his crime - he missed the deadline by 1 hr and on his way home and was killed by an Israeli soldier. I wonder if the Israeli soldier knows that this 12 day Israeli onslaught happen during the period countries move from daylight savings to summer time and, although Israel moved their clocks forward, Palestine did not have a chance to since all of our local media was destroyed by Israeli tanks and sledgehammers and we are still operating on daylight saving time. Kamal - rest in peace my brother.

Everywhere today people are talking about the horror of the last 12 days. Everyone asking for friends and loved ones arrested. Eyad still in jail, Imad out, Amin out but in Kalandia and can’t get home, Mahmoud released but still in the hospital, Mohammad still unheard from, and on, and on, and on…

All of our hearts and eyes are on Jenin and Nablus. My best friend in Nablus got his electricity back today, after 7 days straight without it. Still no water. No telephone..only a mobile phone. He has a newborn (3 weeks old) and a 4 year old at home. In Jenin reporters gather on the Israeli checkpoint waiting to enter. Even Ben Welderman from CNN stated on the air today….we feel Israel is hiding something by not letting any of us enter. ‘Us’ is not only journalists. But int’l relief services, Red Cross, human rights activists, Israeli peace activists, ambulances, clean water trucks, etc, etc.

Today it was reported that the Israeli army has actually started to cover up their war crimes by bulldozing the rubble to central locations and by burying over 300 decomposing Palestinian bodies in mass graves and sewage pits. The are putting the bodies in body bags so the pictures are less disturbing once the cameras do get in and find them. Israel has actually asked the UN for more body bags, as you will read below. They ran out of body bags in Israel!!!!! Can anyone understand what this means!!!

People walked around the city during the lifting of the curfew in a daze..shocked at what is happening around us. Abu Kamel from the Amari Refugee Camp rushed to my Aunt’s house when the curfew was lifted asking if he could trim the bushes…she thought it was a weird request given the situation…turns out he had too much Palestinian/Arab pride to ask for the needed money to by his family essential food.

I drove to my office today too in the Ramallah Industrial Area. A 7 minute drive took 35 minutes…roads are dug up all over the place, electric and telephone poles down, store fronts smashed. It is amazing how much was destroyed. Our offices were entered like all others in town by about 25 Israeli soliders 2 nights ago. They took the Palestinian guard who was stuck in the building and used him as human sheild to go from room to room. Doors that were closed we forced open. Papers thrown all over he floor, although no major damage was done. I felt violated.

I am receiving many messages from Israeli friends who are trying to offer help. Truth is they feel just as helpless as us under curfew, or for that matter, as an American under Bush. Here is an excerpt from one Israeli mother:

“…really all words mean nothing anymore.israel is the real loser .the ugly aggressor.just like after hitler germans were ashamed to be germans ,now israelis are going to be in the same position.no matter how many palestinians are killed israel will never succeed in justifying stealing your lands,your lives,your futures,your safety,and all they can,and then calling you terrorists because you don’t take it quietly enough!how dare you resist….”

My girls are doing fine. We have been extremely lucky so far. The band we created is now fully able to recite “We Shall Overcome”. We have more work to do on the accent and rhythm, but we will be ready for the activity we are planning. To sing to the tanks while Powell is in the area…maybe he can understand English, civil rights style. My oldest daughter Areen, keeps asking the same question about the meaning of the word “overcome”, “Does it mean, at the end, both sides will not kill each other, you know the Israelis visit us in Ramallah as tourists and we go to Hafia as tourists”. I assured her, exactly.

Nadine, my 2 year old has her first vocabulary down pat, dababba (tank), takh (shooting) and tayerah (helicopter). Not only can she differentiate, her reaction takes appropriate shape depending on the size of the blast or sound. She freezes, tilts her head and noticeably puts her ear to the air and either heads straight to mom, or says Bahh takh (shooting gone) and continues her daily activities, which now happens to be potty training.

We get calls constantly all day. Many outside of the country trying to find loved ones that are out of touch, reporters trying to get a statement given they are denied entry by Israel or free access to all Palestinian areas. Yet others in Gaza asking what is happening so they can be better prepared if they are next.

With all of this, we continue. Some still weeping. Some in a daze. Some trying to feed their families from lifting to lifting of curfew. Some playing journalist. Some facing the reality of crushed careers. Others crushed families. Some thinking how this will all be documented. Some wondering if it is even worth it. Some thinking how we will rebuild. Some thinking what do the Israelis want. Some thinking what does Bush want. But ALL committed to not voluntarily creating another 1948 or 1967.

I keep asking myself. Does the average Israeli citizen feel any safer today than one month ago?

When all is said and done we can only ask for your assistance. Involvement. Action. No matter how little or how far…you can help.