Damian Clarke's Update From Palestine - 2
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 is writing to Scoop regularly about his experiences.
Kia ora Scoop readers
I've just had an interesting journey a short distance from Marda where I stayed last night to Salfit which is a nearby town with an internet cafe. To get here I had to get a taxi from Marda to a road block comprised of two great piles of rubble. From the road block I had to get another taxi the rest of the journey to Salfit. Hooray.
I'm doing work now on behalf of ISM (International Solidarity Movement). I'm with a group of five people from Canada, United States, England, Sweden and of course I'm from Aotearoa.
We were asked to go to Marda- a town which is right next to the largest Israeli settlement on the West Bank (Ariel). We were requested to go there because two nights ago the Israeli Occupying Forces came and destroyed a bunch of olive trees belonging to the village. The trees border a main road used by the settlers and by Palestinians.
We left Jerusalem yesterday morning for Marda via a couple of taxi changes which is the way Palestinians have to travel because of road blocks and check points. We stopped in Marda only long enough to drop off out packs and then headed off to the nearby town of Sawya where there is a tent pitched in solidarity with the prison hunger strikers. There is currently a hunger strike in many prisons in Israel and Palestine protesting the conditions suffered by Palestinians. Marwan Barghouti is amongst the strikers. Many palestinians are held for months at a time in administrative detention without even being charged. I met a man in the solidarity tent who had been held in administrative detention for months. I met another young man who hadn't been able to visit his father in prison for seven years.
We returned in the afternoon to Marda and had a big lunch and sweet tea with some of the men and many of the kids in the village.
The kids in Marda are cool. They all love having their photo taken and seem really happy. If the adults in the village didn't shoo them off occasionally they would spend all day hanging around the ISM volunteers begging for photos and playing.
I was awoken last night at 2.30am- my first night in the village when two other ISM volunteers sharing a room with me woke me. A couple of jeeps had come into the village and detonated a sound bomb. I saw the headlights of the cars as they went hurtling down the street near where I was staying. Three more sound bombs exploded. I could hear them being fired and then detonating. I had gone to bed feeling quite happy to be in Marda, but now I was not only rudely awoken (not a good thing to do to me at the best of times) but I was also scared. I received a phone call from a Palestinian whose house had been surrounded by the jeeps. I didn't know what I could do about it so passed on the call to a more experienced ISMer. Thankfully the jeeps left his house- unfortunately they went to the mayors house. The mayor was told that if the children in the village didn't stop throwing stones they would close access to the village and uproot more trees. I didn't see any kids throwing stones, but I'm sure they do sometimes.
I'm not really sure why they needed the sound bombs. I suspect it's in order to humiliate and scare people. Who would want to bring children up in this atmosphere? I know a lot of Palestinians get fed up and leave the country- "a land without a people...". Simply staying and living day to day is an act of resistance here. The Ariel settlement overlooks Marda from the hill- about the equivalent distance from Kent terrace to the top of Mount Victoria in Wellington.
Marda has had problems with rubbish from Ariel being dumped in Marda by the settlers as well as settlers shooting into the town. The olive harvest is only possible with the presence of internationals. The settlers are less likely to attack international observers than Palestinians. The pitched rooves of Ariel- suitable for wet weather conditions- tell their own story.
Today I woke up and it was normal again. The kids were happy. It was as if nothing had happened. This is their life. These are my heroes.