I’m writing from day 5 of the solidarity tent in Ar Ram where at least 17 people have joined in on the hunger strike protesting Israel’s apartheid wall. Despite the heat wave (36 centigrade) there is a good atmosphere in the tent, and the hunger strikers - though visibly more weary n are in high spirits. Today there were questions regarding Dr. Azmi Bishara’s health. Bishara was the first to go on hunger strike, but he is also a kidney transplant receiver (via his brother). Since there haven’t been so many kidney transplant receivers who have gone on hunger strike, his doctors are especially worried. Despite this, he is bravely pressing on and even comes off as one of the stronger hunger strikers never refusing interviews and always active on the tent grounds.
Throughout the day, delegations of people in solidarity come to visit and get information, while journalist are busy hounding the hunger strikers looking for an interview. The tent where the strike is taking place is equipped with a couple of computers (one with a DSL line), information packets on the Wall, a couple of fans, chairs and tables, mattresses (where the strikers sleep), a satellite-linked television and two water coolers where everyone including the hunger strikers drink from. The tents’ walls are decorated with maps, Palestinian flags, posters and banners with slogans on them that read: “Resisting the wall: a duty of all people of conscience”, “Israel’s wall = Apartheid - Wrong in South Africa, wrong in Palestine” and “Israel’s wall (does not equal) security; Israel’s wall = land theft, racial discrimination and Palestinian dispossession”. At night, when the temperature has cooled off and people have gotten off work, the tent becomes a collecting ground for people in the neighborhood as well as people from farther off who come to share their solidarity, and where events take place. Yesterday night, a local children’s summer camp came around and did a performance, a few people read their poetry and organizers read solidarity greetings aloud. As I write these words, a delegation from Nazareth has come and different representatives from popular grassroots committees are extending their greetings. This is significant because their is a sense of inclusiveness about the whole event, with a recognition on both sides of the Green line that the wall affects all Palestinians and must be resisted likewise.
Less than 50 yards from the tent, groundwork on the wall is taking place. Beneath uzi- totting armed guards with bullet proof-vests on (security contractors, not even soldiers), construction equipment is busy at work digging trenches, pouring concrete and trying to get a good ‘level’ base upon which the leggo-like 8 meter high concrete blocks will eventually stand. It is also about 300 meters from the second checkpoint that is the gateway into Jerusalem from the north. Once the wall is built, where the tent now stands (together with the entire neighborhood of ar Ram (about 40,000 people) will be in a sort of twilight zone with a wall on one side and caught between two checkpoints about a mile and a half apart.
I will try and write continuous updates regarding what goes on here in the tent and the state of the hunger strikers. In the mean time, I am taking this opportunity to make a loud and clear appeal to all those who read this to organize and mobilize all resources at their disposal to draw attention to the racist colonialist Israeli practices embodied in the wall and all that it stands for, in parallel with the courageous attempts to resist it on behalf of the Palestinian people. This hunger strike is not about a few individuals, but is about the historical dispossession of the Palestinian people in their and their attempt to resist Israel’s dispossessive and racist policies backed by the US government. We are at a crucial stage where we are calling upon the broadening of solidarity work both locally and internationally. To begin with, tomorrow (Thursday) is a general strike where all Palestinian shops will be closed in protest. We also hope to get more solidarity tents erected and more hunger strikers on board throughout the entire occupied territories, inside the green line and throughout the Arab world as well as internationally. We will update you of our progress. The aim is to have continuity in the struggle so that this issue (and all the Palestinian rights it so negatively effects) will not be lost or forgotten, but can lay the basis for a new movement against Israeli apartheid.
More later. Try to get the message out.
Toufic Haddad is currently in the occupied Palestinian territories and is co-editor of the journal Between the Lines.