Nablus: On the ‘Road’ with the Mobile Clinic
1) A Lifeline for Qosin _ Anne Gwynne 2) Report on municipal water wells in Gaza _ Will Hewitt 3) No One Need Cry_ Jenin documentary available 4) World for Palestine screensaver ================
A Lifeline for Qosin - On the ‘Road’ with the Mobile Clinic of UPMRC* Date: January 31, 2003 Author: Anne Gwynne Area: Nablus
Destruction and barriers, the biggest and deepest holes in the torn-up road I have yet seen: this is the Beit Iba Roadblock, which the Israelis call a ‘checkpoint’ – what misuse of a word! No words can convey the situation here – we are in acres of mud amid long lines of waiting people who have to carry all their shopping, baggage, children, and babes-in-arms for hours at a stretch. There is no possibility of putting them down in the deep mud and water. It is bitingly cold and damp.
When the line reaches a pool of water, people are ordered to stand there for hours and are not ‘permitted’ to avoid it – it is an outrage against all humanity. We are trying to get from Nablus to the village of Qosin with the UPMRC mobile Clinic. Our doctor tells me that “it is very difficult indeed without internationals because Qosin is a ‘closed’ village. All its roads are blocked and there is never any possibility of coming out or going in”. We wait one hour to be allowed to pass (we will be longer on the way back). A deep, fast-flowing stream runs across the road to the village by the checkpoint. These overflows of water are everywhere because of the way the IOF just bulldoze huge heaps of rubble and earth, creating lakes in heavy rain which eventually overflow. We climb to the top of a mountain road which has stunning panoramic views – and as we approach the village we see that all the large houses on the outskirts have been destroyed. In the driveway of one ruined house a tank is parked, in another an armoured personnel carri
The Clinic is held in a new building - the gift of an International donor. It is not yet finished and has no proper facilities for sick people to see the doctors – very cold, with no heating and no equipment of any sort. An amazing number of people come; they are so pleased to see the UPMRC staff who are their lifeline. In this village there is no longer any possibility of employment, and people tell me that they all help to support each other in every way – but, they say, for how long?
Everything here is cold, except the welcome! It is, as usual, so warm and full of affection. To the clinic come mothers with tiny, often underweight, babies. They say that the food they are able to get now is not adequate for growing children – it is restricted, and they do not have any dairy products or fresh fruit and vegetables. I remind you that this is a Palestinian village, in which live Palestinian people in their own land of Palestine, yet they are not permitted to buy the essential food their children need for health - so the next generation will have very many health problems. Teeth here are almost universally in extremely poor condition. An American friend asked me why we didn’t take fresh produce in the Ambulance – of course, we should be able to. But this area is closed, and the vehicle will be confiscated if any item (even a warm blanket or a personal photograph
The doctors must examine these babies in icy rooms on the cold surface of melamine-topped tables, and their stethoscopes are very cold indeed! Many patients arrive: old women bent double over walking sticks, children with no socks. A chill wind howls in around the windows. Everyone wants to talk, and everyone has a story of Israeli brutality and inhumanity. The manifestation of Palestinian pride in the nation is evident everywhere – there are flags, plaques, carvings, and pictures of Palestine as it was. The mothers are lovely – like young moms anywhere. They wear high-heeled boots, well-cut pants and elegant coats. But the signs of strain are there on every woman’s face. Still, everyone says to me, “Welcome, you are welcome in our land”.
This ancient nation of friendly, hospitable people has been reduced to mere existence by an illegal occupying army, contravening every relevant International Law and Governance. The _expression in the eyes of the old – or maybe not-so-old – are an indictment of all of us who do not do whatever we can to influence our Governments to end this suffering. Often I am unable to lift my eyes to meet theirs because I am so ashamed of our inaction. It often requires a very deep breath! For they do not want pity – just understanding of their suffering and some reassurance that people in other countries are with them in spirit and have not abandoned them to this.
Many of the donated medicines have instructions in English only, and there are not enough effective treatments, such as antibiotics – especially liquid antibiotics which are needed for the children. As a result, many of the children and adults alike have bad coughs, runny eyes and general respiratory infections which are so easily and cheaply treatable with the right medicine.
By twelve o'clock I am really chilled to the bone – in thick jeans, tights, socks, hiking boots, a cashmere polo under a sweatshirt and a hiking jacket over a duvet vest. Many women are in cotton clothes and the children in thin cotton trousers. Babies’ feet hang down coldly from the blanket in which they are wrapped. It is impossible to convey the suffering here – or indeed, to convey the fun and merriment which bubbles out from the young men who have retained their humanity in a terrible situation. Of course, it is, I believe in some way easier for the men - because they spend their days with each other able to vent their anger, whereas the women have to keep the family together - cook, clean, wash, nurse sick babies and console old people with heavy hearts.
A cute boy of about seven comes alone with toothache – a toothache in this cold with no dentist! He has on thin trousers, one-strap sandals and no socks, topped by a thin blouson. I cannot feel my toes and my fingers are numb. A young mother has made the long trek uphill – with two children walking and one baby in her arms who is wrapped in a constantly falling-off blanket. (And in Europe we feel that bringing up children is hard!) I hold her baby and the tears come – all around give me sympathy with their usual generosity of spirit. And they apologise for the lack of chairs!
I spend a long time with a Head Teacher of a school, whose daily problems of getting to work in Nablus just amaze me. He has to leave his home in Qosin at 5.00 am to walk over the mountains because he is banned from the road by the Israelis. He is often soaking wet and covered in mud by the time he gets to work and, of course, exhausted by the daily struggle. In normal times, his school is 15 minutes away. But he says his journey is not unusual at all here!
At one o’clock the village brings a delicious lunch and no one from there eats until we have finished - bowls of olives, pitta and hummus, which is all they have left now. At two o’clock we must go – there is, of course, curfew at six, and we must allow for the long wait at the Beit Iba checkpoint where three roads converge. This time we are the first in line from our side. On the road crossing ours, going into Nablus, there is a long line of people, donkeys and carts. Only one person passes through in 30 minutes. An old man hobbles up a steep bank to sit on a cold concrete block to rest. Nothing moves. Suddenly, the Israelis begin a ‘training’ exercise in the midst of all this waiting. Next to us a bored truck driver, who clearly does this every day, sits eating oranges.
The line from Nablus is equally long – hundreds of people who can move only on the say-so of teenage soldiers. An armoured car faces us, guns at the ready; its Israeli flag blowing in the icy wind – an Israeli flag flying on a Palestinian road in Palestine! All around are huge bulldozers, earth-movers, scoops and diggers. Everything for a half-mile in all directions has been destroyed to create this monument to Israel’s ‘security’. On our right is a graveyard for ‘confiscated’ taxis and Services (mini-buses) - dozens of vehicles which represent the family investment and income for hundreds of people, summarily confiscated while conveying Palestinians between Nablus and neighbouring villages. Where else can a teenager ‘confiscate’ a bus whose owner has no right of appeal and no compensation? The Israeli ‘training’ continues and we have now waited for 40 minutes - our staff remark that the soldiers are playing James Bond! They run about looking for all the world like nine-year-olds playing with guns. Except that these guys can end a life in a split second - at will. There are now six ambulances, with their complement of staff, two on each road. Critical patients will die and pregnant women give birth at this desolate spot. No persons have been allowed through and we have been here for one hour and 20 minutes. How can any kind of commerce survive when capital goods are standing about doing nothing, often for days upon end? Every hour that a truck is out of action costs its owner money.
Our doctor asks when can we leave – and he is told: “Wait!”. No reason. There is no pedestrian sidewalk - all the animals, baggage, children, nursing mothers, the old and the young are mixed up with trucks, buses, taxis and carts in this filthy, desolate expanse of dereliction. A women struggles by, carrying two babies, one on each arm. How has she held them for hours? How on earth have her arms endured this pain? One hour and 40 minutes later, we are ‘allowed’ to go. And my anger chokes me.
Municipal Wells Destroyed: Collective Punishment Continues Date: January 31, 2003 Author: Will Hewitt Area: Gaza
Wednesday night Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) destroyed two municipal water wells which provide approximately 50 percent of the water for the city of Rafah. Water use is currently restricted to 2 hours per day. The Rafah Municipal Department of Water and Wastewater informed IOF commanders about the exact location of these wells prior to the attacks. Despite the fact that these wells are crucial to maintaining basic health and sanitation in Rafah, the IOF specifically targeted them for demolition. Activists from the International Solidarity Movement stated that this demolition is yet another example of the IOF policy of collective punishment: all residents of the occupied Palestinian territories are routinely targeted by the IOF, regardless of whether or not they have any involvement with the armed resistance here. Workers from the Water Department had to connect private agricultural wells to the main city water system in order to supply basic service. This irrigation water is unsafe for human use, yet many locals must drink tap water since they are unable to afford buying bottled water or filters. The two wells which were destroyed were the largest and most productive of the 6 wells serving the Rafah area. These wells are the only source of city water here. Armored bulldozers used for this demolition came into the Al Hasash area on the Northwestern edge of Rafah from the militarized zone which isolates Rafah from Mawasi, a Palestinian village on the coast. Rafah is surrounded by a strip of barren land 100 to 300 meters wide which is patrolled by IOF tanks, bulldozers, and armored personnel carriers. Beyond this perimeter stand strategically placed guard towers, manned by IOF snipers. These conditions, in addition to the frequent shooting from tanks and guard towers, which regularly kills Palastinian civilians, and the 4 meter high steel wall under construction along the Gaza/Egypt border, make make Rafah a virtual prison: it is as if the entire city is in jail. IOF Bulldozers often enter from the militarized zone to demolition houses on the edges of town. In the recent past a sewer installation near the Abu Zuhri wells targeted Wednesday night was also damaged by IOF demolition crews. Ashraf Ghneim, director of municipal water and wastewater, stated that his department sent letters to European Union representatives in the area informing them of the situation. The EU often assists with the maintenance of infrastructure in economically depressed Gaza, where unemployment approached 80 percent. Ghneim also stated that the Abiu Zuhri wells may have been destroyed as reprisal for two IOF soldiers killed Tuesday night by Palastinian armed resistance. Other Rafah residents speculated that this destruction was a show of force ordered by Ariel Sharon, who was re-elected this week. Peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) co- operated with the municipal water department in order to protect another well also located dangerously near to the IOF militarized zone. Four activists from the United States, Britain, and Sweden spent the night at the well. They informed their consulates of their presence and hung a banner stating "Internationals Here" from the pumphouse. International civilians served as human shields: the Israeli army is reluctant to shoot internationals, since killing them will create bad press for the Israeli army and government.
Is this the only way to protect the basic rights of Palestinians from an overpowering and brutal occupying force?
3) “No One Need Cry” Jenin Documentary available
Within days after the Jenin massacre in April, 2002, when U.N. observers were denied access, when most journalists were kept away, filmmaker Maren Karlitsky began documenting what had just happened (and was to some extent still happening). She went with IWPS and ISM, interviewed the camp residents and filmed what they found as they returned.
The result is "No One Need Cry," a powerful, 34-minute documentary of scenes not shown on the nightly news, despite the rule that "if it bleeds, it leads." Without narration, the Palestinian victims tell their own story, and the camera sees what they see. I have seen it numerous times, but it still chokes me each time. This is the footage no one was ever supposed to get, effectively edited into a coherent and chilling tale.
Maren has authorized the ISM support group in Northern California to reproduce and distribute the NTSC version of the film in North America, to benefit ISM and IWPS. The reproduction is high quality, made professionally from a beta master with English subtitles. I have also added four minutes of footage from Israeli television (rebroadcast by Al-Manar News in English) of Israeli soldiers describing methods of torturing and killing Palestinians. (The program was about soldiers recovering from their experiences.) If you would like a copy, please send $20/copy plus $3 S&H/copy for up to 4 copies. If you want more than four copies, I will figure the S&H separately. I also have some copies without the extra 4 minutes, if you prefer. Checks should be made to ISM and sent to 405 Vista Heights Rd., El Cerrito, CA 94530. OK to use for your own fundraisers without additional authoriza
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============= 4) World for Palestine Screensaver
Dear brothers and sisters for Palestine,
I just released World for Palestine screensaver for Windows with some of my Palestine-related images. It's a zip file with 1.55MB, which can be downloaded for free at:
My sincere thanks to my brother Marco Capelli who kindly offered web space to host this file.
Just unzip and click on setup.exe to install it on your computer. It runs on most common versions of Windows. I don't think you will find any problem with new versions though.
I beg you to spread it as much as you can, because it's a creative way to promote Palestinian struggle for independence. Just another contribution for that brave people.
Thank you! Latuff