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We Demonstrate Because We Want Freedom

Today We Have Made This Demonstration because We Want Freedom

What the Children said to the Occupation Forces in Occupied Beit Furik

From Emily, ISM International

In Beit Furik, a small village near Nablus, the days can be long and unbearably hot. No one understands this more than the Palestinian men who try to travel to the city in search of work. Everyday, they are captured by the Israeli military while trying to cross a nearby field, searched, interrogated and made to sit for hours underneath the blazing sun. Their only crime is attempting to enter the city in search of jobs that will allow them to bring food and other necessities to their families.

Palestinians often cut across nearby agricultural fields, avoiding checkpoints, because of the army¹s order that no man between16 and 35 can cross into Nablus. Lately the army has been tenaciously enforcing this rule, conducting daily roundups of men walking in the fields.

Every day, the checkpoint is filled with detainees. The soldiers keep them while supposedly checking their IDs. "It¹s punishment," one young soldier openly admitted. "But they should not be walking in the fields." I asked him whether he believed this punishment was fair and humane. "Look," he said, "I have my orders."

Before the occupation, Beit Furik was a sleepy agricultural village with magnificent rolling hills, endless rows of olive trees and breathtaking views of the Jordan Valley. Today, the village is plagued with checkpoints, incursions by the army, the threat of violence from local settlers and Israeli control of water and agricultural exports, all part of the economic hardship the occupation has brought to Beit Furik.

ISM internationals have maintained a presence here, monitoring these situations and trying to bring relief when possible. In addition to being inside the village, we have had a daily presence at the Beit Furik checkpoint, pressuring soldiers to be more humane and bringing food and water to the detainees.

Community relations has also been an important aspect of ISM work in the village where we have met with several families, political organizations such as the PPP (Palestinian People¹s Party), and political officials including the mayor. We have also been working in the women¹s center of Beit Furik and the children¹s summer camp. Some of the greatest rewards for us have come from working with the children of Beit Furik.

The children here are profoundly affected by the occupation. It is both heartbreaking and motivating to be in their presence. During the "freedom summer campaign", ISM internationals held a workshop with the children to express their feelings about the checkpoints and occupation. They made posters, most of which showed their houses, trees, flowers and hearts underneath Palestinian flags.

We asked the children "If you could say anything to the soldiers, what would you say?" Using the children¹s words, we composed a poignant speech to be read to the Israeli occupation forces.

On the afternoon of July 24th, the ISM accompanied about 20 of children in a peaceful march to the Beit Furik checkpoint. The children faced the soldiers, held their posters, sang songs and chanted "Free, Free Palestine" while one of us read their speech to the soldiers.

Here now are the words of the children. I hope you will read them carefully and take them to heartŠ.

Today, we have made this demonstration because we need freedom

We need to pass freely with no problems We need to live under democratic conditions We want to go to Nablus with no delay Do not catch our fathers and brothers and put them underneath the hot sun, When they come back to the village, do not make bomb sounds Let emergency cases pass freely to the hospital Do not stop ambulances

Treat men and women equally as human beings Do not shoot Palestinian children We need to live under peace Move the roadblocks It should not be up to you when we can and cannot cross

Do not put our people in prison Do not destroy our homes Do not search us Treat us like human beings Do not destroy our farms Do not put young people in prison Do not come at night and scare the people

Give us our freedom Do not search our houses at night and scare us Do not detain people in the cold night Do not destroy our land and make new settlements Do not cut down our trees to extend settlements

Stop letting people shoot at farmers Do not cut down our trees Do not destroy our olive trees to make roadblocks We are against the wall Do not occupy our houses Do not point lasers at our houses-- it hurts our eyes Do not light flares-- it is dangerous and can start fires

Stop assassinating our people Leave our land Stop killing and scaring children Stop destroying our roads with your tanks Leave Palestine We want a free state.

The demonstration lasted about a half-hour. It ended peacefully with the children marching back home.


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