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NZer Arrives In Palestine To Train As Activist


New Zealander Arrives In Palestine To Train As Activist

Damian Clarke is a 31 year old from Miramar in Wellington, NZ and is currently in Palestine under training with the International Solidarity Movement - a group of internationalists campaigning for peace in the Middle East. Damian will write regularly to Scoop about his experiences.

Kia Ora Scoop.co.nz Readers,

I was the breakfast guest yesterday of at the house of Salim Hassan Shawamreh. His house has a stunning view of the Mount of Olives. It also has a commanding view of an earth mover only about 25 meters away which is there to build the apartheid wallbeing built IN the West Bank (not AROUND the West Bank as is often portrayed). His son Anas is the most gorgeous looking three year old boy you can imagine. He seems to spend a lot of his time at meals climbing Dad.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) is the organisation through which I was invited to Salims house. The volunteers there are working for two weeks helping to rebuild a house that has been destroyed by the occupying Israeli army. I came along to help out for the day.

The work is nearly finished and the grand opening is Saturday night. Everyone works eagerly, but many half expect the new building to last only a day or so once finished before Israel sends in the bulldozers. Apparently they will normally wait until the finishing touches are added before destroying these buildings.

Salims house has been demolished four times so he is up to the fifth version. He no longer lives in it, but uses it as a base to host volunteers for ICAHD.Volunteers are mostly Israeli and diaspora Jews but also internationals like myself. So I was hosted for breakfast by a Palestinian, who was also hosting many Jews. We ate to the sound of heavy machinery constructing a barrier designed to separate these races. This conflict is not difficult to understand. It is very simply about racism.

The reason given for house demolitions is that the houses are built without permits from the occupying Israeli government. It costs US$5000 for the Palestinians to apply for the privelige of having their application rejected on some weak pretence. Salim applied twice to the Israeli government- a government that doesn't give him the vote, but takes taxes from him.Now his house is rebuilt by ICAHD and knocked down again by the Israeli Occupation Forces.

At lunch time we had girls from the Shufat refugee camp come and dance for us. Many people from this camp were displaced from their homes in Jerusalems old city in 1967. Now Israel wants to get rid of the camp on the outskirts of the city. Israel has been cutting water to the camp in an attempt to make life there unlivable. People in the camp have been stealing water from the clinic and the school- you can't live without water. I can't believe that anyone would want to harm in any way these beautiful young girls who were dancing for us to show appreciation for what little we were doing for the Palestinians.They must have been about 12 year olds. They were dressed in matching embroidered traditional Palestinian costume.

I worked most the day carrying cement and wood and rubbish from A to B while the Palestinian workers did the skilled work. I was proud to be showing these people that even at the bottom of the world in Aotearoa there are people who know what is going on and who do give a damn.

Cheers for now.

Damian Clarke


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