Tag Archives: Ramallah

Leaving the West Bank

 

Exit policy – I wasn’t going to lie this time!

 

I decided that when crossing Allenby Bridge into Jordan for my flight back to the UK, if the Israeli border police asked me any questions, my reply was going to be, ‘I have been teaching English in Ramallah, is this a problem’? These last three months had again made me examine my fears and, and combined with Snowden’s whistle-blowing on the National Security Agency in the US, convinced me tha t- to be truly human, to dispense with spying, surveillance and fear of the ‘other’ – we have to be open, transparent and honest.

 

The 40 minute drive to the Bridge from Ramallah was so pleasant. The driver was a man I know who is from Aboud, a village close to Nabi Saleh, He took me by the back roads, pointing out villages I had never seen as we descended into the sandscape of the Jordan Valley. To get to the actual border crossing one has to change from the Palestinian taxi into an Israeli taxi and pay another £10 for a 10 minute ride. This Israeli driver was distinctly different…was it because I shook hands with the Palestinian driver? ‘Did I have a visa’? ‘Where had I been’? he repeatedly interrogated.

 

We passed through a checkpoint where I was asked if I had any weapons – this is a ‘usual’ question and, luckily, we quickly weren’t delayed getting to the terminal. After I had paid my exit tax, I turned around and was approached by a giantess of a woman, with clipboard, who asked me if I was a tourist. I just looked blankly at her and she repeated her question. Still getting no answer from me she explained that, as I had just come from Israel and she came from Ministry of Tourism, she would just like to ask me some questions. Protesting that I was in a hurry, I rushed off to the next booth for an exit visa stamp. Here the official explained that my visa had expired by one day but that was not a problem .. (I have become orientated to being on Palestinian time but, even so, being 24 hours late is stretching that somewhat).

 

And so I passed into Jordan, thinking “was that giantess really from the Shin Bet security organisation, doing a soft approach, or was it just my paranoid reaction”? I realised that I had just passed up my opportunity of being honest and transparent …I should have said, ‘No I haven’t come from Israel but the West Bank, there’s lots of tourism there in spite of being occupied’ ! The best intentions of mice and men, I have to count this as a trial run!

Prison Palestine

Many Palestinians feel trapped as they don’t have the freedom to travel freely in their own state – to Gaza or Jerusalem – let alone the ‘outside’ as they frequently describe it. Some who have been in prison say they felt freer there than living in the West Bank.

 

Here are two examples of border hassle for West Bank Palestinians who I know, minor compared to outright rejection of a visa application, but illustrating how the occupation can harass and intimidate. Ziad, Director of Al Bireh Municipality where I had been volunteering, went to Jordan for two days, and on his return he was questioned for 4 hours at the Allenby crossing by Shin Bet because he had made a speech in Ramallah about Hugo Chavez. Ramallah/al Bireh had decided to name a street after Chavez and Ziad was inaugurating this. Apart from the harassment, how did they know what he had been doing? It doesn’t take too much analysis to work that out ….The second example is that of the two teachers who give me Arabic lessons. They decided to go to Sheik al Sharm resort area in Egypt for a week’s holiday. Not being able to go through Gaza (where they were born), they were forced to travel to Amman, Jordan, and then fly to Egypt. It would be so much easier for them to go across the Rafah border directly into Egypt, if only they could. But as Palestinians this is forbidden to them.
Gill's blog 1 July 2013 teachers of arabic

 

 

As a UK citizen, I am a privileged person, with rights and freedom to travel to countries the Britain once colonised or controlled. And I just hope that we can do something to help Palestinians get their freedom, their human rights, and the right to travel.

 

 

Free Palestine!

 


		
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Out of the mouths of taxi drivers

 “What do you think, are we sleeping?”, he asked. I replied, obliquely, that there were some pockets of resistance but nothing is unified over the West Bank. It was a short ride so I didn’t find out his opinion.

TheRamallah Bubble

I am sure if you do not step outside the Ramallah city boundaries, it is easy to think that the West Bank is calm and peaceful. No army incursions, no violent clashes between teenage boys and soldiers, no resistance to the occupation apart from smallish demonstrations like the one marking Obama’s visit .

 In Hastingsas a small bunch of activists we are used to the majority of people not engaging in our peace issues. Are the inhabitants in the Ramallah suburb where I am staying of a similar mindset tin spite of everything that has happened from the Nakba onwards? The people people around seem to have good jobs – most of the cars are smarter than mine (not too difficult I hear some of you say). Trees line the pavements, flowers are carefully tended, 10 minutes away there are bars which could be in London or Paris. So in Ramallah it is easy to think you are in a pop-up European city that has sprung up from nowhere. Is this the face of ‘normalisation’ ? Well, Ramallah is only 22 kilometres away from Bethlehem, where in Aida Camp there is a different story to be told.

 Last year I was inspired by the cultural resistance in the Aida Refugee Camp, found in the Al Arowwad and Lajee youth centres. But for some of of the young people this is not enough. They vent their frustrations by focusing on the watch tower and the Wall that invades their space.Gill 2013 A the guardpost

The day of my visit the camp was calm, but this is not always so as the following events show.

 Last Monday, April 8, Mohammed Al-Azza, a Palestinian cameraman was shot in the face. Monday, Israeli soldiers entered Aida Refugee Camp through a gate in the separation wall dividing Rachel’s Tomb from Bethlehem. There were no clashes at the time, and their presence in the camp was not provoked. He was merely photographing the soldiers from the second-floor balcony of the Lajee Center, where he has long volunteered in the media unit. He was eager to use the centre’s new camera, a Canon 600D with a 50-250mm zoom lens.*Palestinian photographer shot by Israeli forces, Beit Jala, West

 The back story – making a hole in the wall

This January, several youths decided to take action against the Wall. They chose a spot near the guard tower from which the army frequently fire and which was already weakened by the continuous burning of tyres. They drilled a hole using a electric hand drill, and after two nights the hole was large enough for them to pass through. On January 15 two did.

Salah Ajarma, the director of the Lajee Centre said the idea to make a hole in the wall came from an activist identified only as “Ali Wall,” who began a campaign against the barrier in Aida camp shortly after its completion in 2006. His dream was to make a hole and go to the other side to play in the field.

 (The Palestine Monitor spoke with several witnesses to the drilling and saw a video of the youths drilling the hole. Photos taken after the drilling was done show a hole several feet high and perhaps a foot wide, large enough for children to pass through.)

 “The purpose of the hole was not to launch attacks on Israel or otherwise endanger the Zionist state’s security”, Ajarma said. “The hole was drilled by the camp’s residents out of a simple and universal desire for freedom”.

 “They don’t want the wall close to them, they don’t want the towers, they don’t want to see the Israeli army in the camp… That’s how they feel. Like if we open a hole, [there’s the belief that] we can reach every space, we can reach Jerusalem, or we can go to have a picnic or to have barbecue on the other side of the Wall. Because that’s what children want. They don’t want walls, they don’t want towers, they don’t want bullets. They want a free area and free space for them”.

The killing of Saleh

Frequent army incursions occurred after the drilling of the hole and, on January 18, 16 year old Saleh Elamareen, who eyewitnesses say was merely standing near the Lajee Centre, was shot in the head. He subsequently died in hospital.

 Aida camp is witnessing a brutal crackdown on its young residents. The youth are the beacons of change in every society as they represent the future. When Israel arrests youth on unknown charges they are robbing them them of education, the right to a family life and of Palestine’s right to their future.”

 So Palestine continues to be perplexing and tragic, hopeful and doomed and denied any political solution for the freedom and justice it deserves.

 * I was not there to witness what happened last week the italicised extracts come from the Palestine Chronicle.

 

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Road Sign – In Reality a Symbol of Occupation and Apartheid

As I travel in a ‘Servis’ (7-seater mini bus), from Ramallah to Nablus, I notice the proliferation of new road signs at the road side entrances to Palestinian villages. They remind me of zoo warning signs for dangerous animals! No need to put similar signs in front of settlements – they are well protected from ‘intruders’ by high wire fences and patrolling armed security staff. Palestinians are only allowed to enter settlements if they have a work permit. Settlers, on the other hand, are free to roam Palestinian land at will, even to attack farmers and uproot trees.

Gill 2013 road sign warning against Palestinians

Correction from last post

How could I get it so wrong? In my last post I said that Tommy Donnellen had been hit by a gas canister. I’ve seen enough wounds by now that I should know the wound was from a steel coated rubber bullet.

Gill 2013 Tommy with wound

He was standing behind the wall of the petrol station, where I often stand with other photographers, professional and amateur, to snap the interplay between the boy stone throwers (‘shebab’) – and the occupation forces. There were no medics around last Friday so Anne, a French photographer, and I were trying to get some ice on the wound, but he was stoically holding out! Tommy is a relentless activist from Galway Ireland who who has been documenting Palestinian non-violent resistance* for a few years, Maybe that was why he was targeted. I hope that he is healing.

Ongoing oppression tactics

Did a truce ever exist? As I write this, Gaza is being bombarded by Israeli air strikes. In the villages surrounding Ramalla land confiscation goes on for military expansion.

http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/gazaunderattack-israel-hits-gaza-in-first-airstrikes-since-november/

http://occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/owners-of-confiscated-lands-near-ramallah-assert-they-wont-give-up-their-lands

* Friday protests are always essentially non-violent. Peaceful marches are halted by the Israeli occupation forces using skunk water and tear gas, then as the march breaks up teenages (‘shebab’) throw stones at the soldiers, who respond with more tear gas and rubber bullets.

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Gill Attended a Vigil for Gaza, in Ramallah

Gill writes from Ramallah:

“…..tonight  there was an impromptu gathering for Gaza In Manara square. I was the only foreigner there, but a candle was passed to me….

Vigil for Gaza in Manara Square, Ramallah

Candlelight Vigil for Gaza, Manara Square, Ramallah

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