In the shadow of Armageddon: Fear of food and poems

On Saturday, about 3,000 Jews and Arabs met at the Meggido crossroads leading to Jenin in order to demonstrate against Israel’s atrocities and to bring water, food, medication, clothing, blankets and other humanitarian aid to the people of Jenin. We managed to gather quite a lot of stuff: 45 trucks were loaded, some with things people brought from their homes to the meeting point.

The police stopped this Ta’ayush (‘co-existence’] convoy already near Megiddo—the biblical Armageddon—far from our destination. From here, we were allowed to proceed only on foot. It was a warm day in the shadow of Armageddon. We walked about 3 miles, and reached the roadblock at the entryway to the Occupied Territories heading toward Jenin.

There we demonstrated in the shadow of tanks, and negotiated with the military, requesting that they let the trucks into Jenin. Our negotiations were successful: The army promised to let the trucks in, on the condition that we leave. We did, and the trucks were indeed let through.

The mood among activists on the buses on the way home was very positive: We felt that we had done something. Only later, at night, did we learn that despite Secretary Powell’s explicit demand to let humanitarian aid into Jenin, our trucks were led to a village outside town, unloaded, and sent back. The food, the medicines, and all the rest is sitting on the ground somewhere, waiting. Even the supply of food and water cannot be taken for granted anymore, and seems to be some kind of a bargaining chip. As a friend said ironically: ‘They are afraid of food.’

Sledgehammers in Ramallah: fear of poems

Given the above, it was ironic to learn that the Israeli army, using sledgehammers and explosives, broke into the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center, an institution also housing the office of Palestinian national poet Mahmud Darwish. This institution is an archive for literary manuscripts, some of which are precious. Stories and poems, like food, are apparently life-threatening in these parts.

Terror in Jerusalem: The poor kill the poor

The Israeli ‘assault on terrorism’ generates the opposite result. While it is sometimes difficult to contain one’s anger and frustration as one sees how the poorest Palestinians end up killing the poorest Israelis, it must be remembered that if the Palestinian population continues to be subjected to Israel’s oppression, the bombings will only become much worse: Methods and technologies used by Palestinian ‘engineers’ have already ‘improved’, killing more people than before. Continued Israeli atrocities will only increase the frequency and lethality of such horrible events.

Desperate ex-dwellers of Jenin’s refugee camp continue to sneak through the ‘closure,’ as did last Friday’s suicide bomber who exploded herself in the Mahne-Yehuda food market. She did so around closing time, when food prices go down, attracting the poorest. Only poor people (and 2 Chinese foreign workers) were killed. Secretary Powell immediately postponed his meeting with Arafat, as if this particular bombing was particularly relevant to the big picture.

Nothing but pure, utter desperation can explain such acts. A woman suicide-bomber-to-be, caught by Israel and interviewed on CBS, said explicitly, upon being asked by Israel TV how she sees her past, present and future: ‘I was in a prison and I am now in a prison.’ Netanyahu and others, who brag on TV that they know how to deal with terrorism, either live, or want to live, in a virtual reality. Things are getting worse, not better.

Attempts to contain opposition

Finally, as opposition to the ongoing ‘war’ slowly begins to crystallize in Israel, the government appears to be launching an assault on all attempts to organize. The Palestinian citizens of Israel are the first, weakest victims of this attack: the police have made arrests on several occassions (protest marches, demonstrations), always taking in Arabs, not Jews. Today there is a hearing in the Ramlah courthouse where police arrested 11 Arab youth from Ta’ayush last Wednesday for staging a quiet protest in the city. This may be just the beginning.