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Courage And More Martyrs

Courage And More Martyrs

I was in the centre of Nablus yesterday, about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, when a youth was shot and killed by the IOF. He is SAMER ZORBHA, aged 18, a student at the High School in Nablus. He was shot twice, one bullet to the shoulder and lung, a favourite target, another to the side of the head. Another very seriously shot and injured and another injured I don't know how badly. Samer is the best friend of a beautiful young Volunteer at the UPMRC Medical Relief Centre, Mohamed al Aseel, and we are feeling his loss with anger as well as grief.

In retaliation for this murderous attack, fighters last night offered their life for their friend and killed two of the illegal occupying force, and injuring another. Two young fighters were killed and I don't yet know the extent of other injuries. I would tell you that, from my bedroom window, I saw the night sky in the area lit up like it was day for more than an hour with brilliant flares and I saw the trail of rockets missiles and machine-guns bullets fired from the US gunship helicopters - so inappropriately named "Apache' - and heard the rapid clatter of the guns of the ships of death riding the starry sky like alien invaders from another world. I heard the explosions of many shells and, I am not sure, but I think a bomb from a US F-16 warplane - the sky was full of them. There was protracted gun-fire for more than an hour. So these young guys really fought it out.

Many tanks, Hummers and Jeeps (all US gifts) rushed to the scene - many columns of them passed in our road as I watched from my window at midnight - the city is criss-crossed with new tank tracks and damage this morning. A shell case fell in our garden! I was walking back to my home just before midnight and heard APC's coming up the road - not usually afraid of these brainwashed soldiers, last night I felt very afraid and ran fast for the alley at the side of my home. As I was running, a Helicopter came overhead, following the light of a flare and, as I thought of how exposed I was, in a well-lit street with no cover, I was sick with terror for a few minutes as I ran for cover. It seemed a long time.

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I would also like to ask you, and those to whom you pass this on, to think about the relative positions of the fighters and occupiers in this monumentally unequal struggle. While the huge force of Israelis have every technical aid invented by the US war machine, the few young fighters have NOTHING BUT THEIR WEAPON (and this not the most modern) - no helmet, bullet proof vest, radio contact or other protection. No back-up, no plane, helicopter, tank, APC, searchlight, dogs, flares, ambulance or refuge - put all the Israeli/American propaganda aside for a few minutes and try to imagine, please, the courage it requires to do what these young fighters do, knowing that the odds are against escape and that, every time they do succeed in evading death, the odds against a further survival are shortened. Even if the operation is a success the price is always high.

And every time the Israeli Command terrorises Nablus as today with tanks and Jeeps and APC's bristling with death at every junction within the city, operating a lock-down even worse than before (how can this be possible), more Martyrs are ready to defend the honour of Palestine and fight for the freedom of surely the most gentle, generous and peaceful people on earth..

Everyone, please, PLEASE protest to your representatives at all levels, write a letter (no matter how short) telling of the criminal acts being visited upon an innocent civilian population every day in Nablus - can we allow the courage of an exceptional people to continue to be the reason for hatred, maiming, murder and destruction on a scale and for a period never seen before in history.

Nablus today is under siege as never before - everyone, please do something - it doesn't have to be a grand act because many small acts become a large one.

And please take the time to send on this letter to everyone you have an address for. I am sure I have left many things out which I should have included here, but I'm sure you will all appreciate how stressed we all are here in Nablus today because we know this is only the beginning.

To Olympia from Rafah Date: February 7, 2003 Author: Rachel Area: Gaza

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what's going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don't know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I'm not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me: Ali--or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me "Kaif Sharon?" "Kaif Bush?"

Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can't imagine it unless you see it-- and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli Army would face of they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen).

They know that children in the United States don't usually have their parents shot and sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and spent an evening when you didn't wonder if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and met people who have never lost anyone-- once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn't surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed "settlements" and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing--just existing-- in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the worlds fourth largest military apparatus--backed by the worlds only superpower-- in its attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these.

As an afterthought to all this rambling-- I am in Rafah: A city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees-- many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are people--or descendants of people--who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine--now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt. Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah, Palestine and the border, and carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. 602 homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater.

Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border: "Go! Go!" because a tank was coming. And then waving and "what's your name?". Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what's going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously-- occasionally shouting-- and also occasionally waving-- many forced to be here, many just aggressive-- shooting into the houses as we wander away.

In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count. Along the horizon-- at the end of streets. Some just army green metal-- others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and cross town twice to hang banners. Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah-- families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as I can tell there are few-if-any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another.

I've been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the "reoccupation of Gaza". Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents-- but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here-- instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. I went to a rally a few days ago in Khan Younis in solidarity with the people of Iraq. Many analogies were made about the continuing suffering of the Palestinian people under Israeli occupation and the upcoming occupation of Iraq by the United States-- not the war itself-- but the certain aftermath of the war. If people aren't already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region.

I also hope you'll come here. We've been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O, as well as the need for constant night-time presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah after the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells (providing half of the water for Rafah according to the municipal water office) last week. Many of these places have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten pm it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.

I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children's groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that could be done. Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage in the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.

Thanks for the news I've been getting from friends in the US. I just read a report back from a friend who organized a peace group in Shelton, Washington, and was able to be part of a delegation to the large January 18th protest in Washington DC. People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and "problems for the government" in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete polyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.

my love to everyone. my love to my mom. my love to the cult formerly known as local knowledge program. my love to smooch. my love to fg and barnhair and sesamees and lincoln school. my love to olympia.


011 972 67 857 049

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