of course before i begin such a post i must say up front that what i say about anjaneb here includes me, as i am also a foreigner in palestine. i cannot help but think about what it means to be a foreigner every day i am here. having a consciousness about what it means to be a foreigner here–having white skin as well as carrying an american passport. this consciousness is akin to living with and understanding what it means to have white privilege in the united states. but here it means something different. it means that most of the time i can cross checkpoints with ease. it means that i can go to 1948 palestine. it means i can leave the country (though it does not necessarily mean i can return).
some palestinians are suspicious of foreigners, though not as much as they should be. foreigners are here for all sorts of reasons (i am focusing on americans here but some of this can apply to other internationals). some are here to spy on palestinians for the american and israeli terrorists. some are here to aid american imperialism through usaid, state department, or u.s. embassy “projects” (witness the most recent imperial efforts of the americans in palestine: training palestinian authority security, read: crack down further on palestinian resistance to israeli colonialism and terrorism). some foreigners are here out of curiosity, as tourists. they want to see for themselves what the real story of palestine is. some foreigners are here to do charity work, these foreigners tend to view palestinians as a charity case. they often come here to tell palestinians what they need rather than listening to what palestinians actually want, rather than helping palestinians build their own projects based on their own initiatives and ingenuity. some foreigners are here to do missionary work in churches and schools (thanks tam tam for reminding me). some foreigners come to boost a cv (also from tam tam). some come here to do research, as journalists, or to write books, often profiting off of palestinians’ tragedies (too rare are the cases of journalists like jonathan cook and nora barrows-friedman). some come to work here with palestinians or at palestinian institutions for a variety of reasons, some problematic, some not. some foreigners come because they want to do “peace” work. these foreigners think that the zionist entity has a right to exist.
then there are the foreigners who come as activists, to do solidarity work. some of these people come for reasons listed above and then become activists. most of us come with varying levels of consciousness or language skills when we arrive. even those of us who come with an understanding of the context in palestine, seeing it up close certainly changes many of us forever. many solidarity activists participate in direct action work with organizations like the international solidarity movement (ism), which i worked with when i first lived here in 2005. of course there are all sorts of different people who work with ism and it seems that most of the foreigners i met at that time had good intentions, were working in solidarity with palestinians in a way that wasn’t imposing some sort of western style of activism on palestinians, but rather following the lead of palestinians. and although i have mixed feelings about ism now, for a variety of reasons, some of which i have posted hear on earlier blog posts, i do think it is important for foreigners to work with palestinians who are resisting the continual theft of their land.
rachel corrie, of course, was one of those people. today is the sixth anniversary of her death. people are commemorating it and marking this anniversary in various places around the world and in palestine. as it happens another ism activist was shot, though not murdered, this week. democracy now! has a report both on tristan anderson, the man shot in the face with a tear gas canister a couple of days ago in the village of ni’in and also an interview with rachel corrie’s parents who were recently in gaza with code pink.
let me be clear: i think that it is important that people like tristan or rachel come here to do this work. what i object to is the way that their deaths or injuries become more important than the daily murders, kidnappings, injuries, land and house confiscation that palestinians endure every day. what very few people report on, especially in the western media, but sometimes even in palestinian media, are the names of the palestinians who are murdered by israeli terrorists. this is sort of like everyone knowing and naming the israeli terrorists held in gaza and no one knowing or using the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered by israeli terrorists. i have a problem with the fact that all sorts of people around the world know rachel’s name, and probably now tristan’s, but how many of them know the names of the thousands of palestinians murdered every year? case in point, check out the story on ma’an news, based in beit lahem, on the shooting of tristan:
Israeli soldiers critically wounded an American peace activist after launching a tear-gas canister at his head and shot four Palestinians with rubber-coated bullets in the West Bank village of Ni’lin, west of Ramallah, on Friday.
“He had a large hole in the front of his head, and his brain was visible,” one protester said of the injuries to the American activist.
Dozens of others choked on tear gas at an otherwise peaceful demonstration against the Israeli separation wall. The protest is a weekly event attended regularly by international peace activists, many affiliated with the International Solidarity Movement.
Demonstrators marched through the streets of Ni’lin toward the Israeli separation wall chanting slogans calling for Palestinian national unity and for resistance to the occupation. Then “the Israeli soldiers attacked the peaceful demonstration using rubber-coated bullets gas and stun grenades.”
The coordinator of the anti-wall Popular Committee in the village, A’hed Al- Khawaja, added, “Four were injured [and] others choked after inhaling gas.”
Later in the day the AP reported that one ISM activist, Tristan Anderson of Oakland, California, was in critical condition at a Tel Aviv hospital. The agency quoted one hospital official as saying “he’s in critical condition, anesthetized and on a ventilator and undergoing imaging tests.”
According to Teah Lunqvist, another protestor, “Tristan was shot by the new tear-gas canisters that can be shot up to 500 meters.”
“I ran over as I saw someone had been shot, while the Israeli forces continued to fire tear-gas at us. When an ambulance came, the Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance through the checkpoint just outside the village. After five minutes of arguing with the soldiers, the ambulance passed,” she said.
In 2003 Rachel Corrie, another ISM peace activist, was crushed by a bulldozer as she stood protecting the home of a Palestinian family from Israeli demolition.
of course, here we know tristan’s name and all the details about his case, but nothing of the four palestinians who were shot. this is not always the case. last summer when a 10 year old palestinian boy was murdered in nil’in ism published a report listing the names of the martyrs of the village:
A 10 year old boy called Ahmed Ussam Yusef Mousa was shot dead at approximately 6pm near the Palestinian village of Nil’in. He was shot once in the head at close range with live ammunition. According to eye witnesses a group of youths attempted to remove coils of razor wire from land belonging to the village.Without warning, they were fired upon and Ahmed was killed. Israeli newspaper Maariv reported in March that the Israeli authorities have given a new order to border police operating along the apartheid wall surrounding Jerusalem. They can now open fire directly on Palestinians who try to demonstrate near the barrier. But sniping is forbidden if there are Israeli or foreign citizens amongst demonstrators.
Demonstrations have been held almost every day for the past few weeks as near Nil’in against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, declared illegal by the International Court in the Hague in 2004. The wall will deprive the village of almost 2,500 Dunums of agricultural land, and put the existence of the entirely community in doubt.
The Israeli Army and Border Police have been increasingly ill-disciplined and violent in response to the demonstrations. News came this morning that Israeli Battalion Commander Lt. Col Omri, had been sent on 10 days compulsory leave as a punishment for his conduct at Nil’in. Omri held a 27 year old Palestinian detainee Ashraf Abu Rahma by the shoulder while one of his men shot Abu Rahma with a rubber coated steel bullet at very close range. Abu Rahma was blindfolded and his hands were bound when he was shot in the foot.
At least 11 other Palestinians have died protesting against Israeli’s apartheid wall. Their names are:
Mohammad Fadel Hashem Rayan, age 25.
Zakaria MaHmud Salem, age 28.
Abdal Rahman Abu Eid, age 62.
Mohammad Daud Badwan, age 21.
Diaa Abdel Karim Abu Eid, age 24.
Hussain mahmud Awwad Aliyan, age 17.
Islam Hashem Rizik Zhahran, age 14.
Alaa Mohammad Abdel Rahman Khalil, age 14.
Jamal Jaber Ibrahim Assi, age 15.
Odai Mofeed Mahmud Assi, age 14.
Mahayub Nimer Assi, age 15.
To date, none of the soldiers who killed demonstrators has been prosecuted.
last summer there was a widely publicized case of a palestinian from nil’in who was blindfolded and handcuffed who was shot by israeli terrorists; it was publicized because it was videotaped, and likely because an b’tselem disseminated it:
Today, B’Tselem is publishing a video clip documenting a soldier firing a rubber coated steel bullet, from extremely close range, at a cuffed and blindfolded Palestinian detainee. The shooting took place in the presence of a lieutenant colonel, who was holing the Palestinian’s arm when the shot was fired.
The incident took place on 7 July, in Nil’in, a village in the West Bank. A Palestinian demonstrator, Ashraf Abu Rahma, 27, was stopped by soldiers, who cuffed and blindfolded him for about thirty minutes, during which time, according to Abu-Rahma, they beat him. Afterwards, a group of soldiers and border policemen led him to an army jeep. The video clip shows a soldier aim his weapon at the demonstrator’s legs, from about 1.5 meters away, and fire a rubber coated steel bullet at him. Abu-Rahma stated that the bullet hit his left toe, received treatment from an army medic, and released by the soldiers.
shooting at and murdering palestinians who dare to resist israeli colonial terrorism is par for the course, but more often than not they go unnamed. last week the injured 8 palestinians in nil’in, all of who also went unnamed in ma’an’s report.
rachel corrie’s parents, cindy and craig corrie, thankfully, do not fall into this pattern of forgetting that there are far more palestinians who die, who are shot, whose homes are destroyed, whose land is stolen. they wrote a statement today in honor of their daughter’s death, which is notable precisely for this reason and for the overall context they provide, which does not place their daughter at the center, but rather the palestinians whose cause she was fighting for:
We thank all who continue to remember Rachel and who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East. The tributes and actions in her memory are a source of inspiration to us and to others.
Friday, 13 March, we learned of the tragic injury to American activist Tristan Anderson. Tristan was shot in the head with a tear gas canister in Nilin village in the West Bank when Israeli forces attacked a demonstration opposing the construction of the annexation wall through the village’s land. On the same day, a Nilin resident was shot in the leg with live ammunition. Four residents of Nilin have been killed in the past eight months as villagers and their supporters have courageously demonstrated against the Apartheid Wall deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice — a wall that will ultimately absorb one-quarter of the village’s remaining land.
Those who have died are 10-year-old child Ahmed Mousa, shot in the forehead with live ammunition on 29 July 2008; Yousef Amira (17), shot with rubber-coated steel bullets on 30 July 2008; Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) and Mohammed Khawaje (20), both shot and killed with live ammunition on 8 December 2008. On this anniversary, Rachel would want us all to hold Tristan Anderson and his family and these Palestinians and their families in our thoughts and prayers, and we ask everyone to do so.
We are writing this message from Cairo where we returned after a visit to Gaza with the Code Pink delegation from the United States. Fifty-eight women and men successfully passed through Rafah crossing on Saturday, 7 March to challenge the border closures and siege and to celebrate International Women’s Day with the strong and courageous women of Gaza.
Rachel would be very happy that our spirited delegation made this journey. North to south throughout the Strip, we witnessed the sweeping destruction of neighborhoods, municipal buildings, police stations, mosques and schools — casualties of the Israeli military assaults in December and January. When we asked about the personal impact of the attacks on those we met, we heard repeatedly of the loss of mothers, fathers, children, cousins and friends. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports 1,434 Palestinian dead and more than 5,000 injured, among them 288 children and 121 women.
We walked through the farming village of Khoza in the south where 50 homes were destroyed during the land invasion. A young boy scrambled through a hole in the rubble to show us the basement he and his family crouched in as a bulldozer crushed their house upon them. We heard of Rafiya, who lead the frightened women and children of this neighborhood away from threatening Israeli military bulldozers, only to be struck down and killed by an Israeli soldier’s sniper fire as she walked in the street carrying her white flag.
Repeatedly, we were told by Palestinians, and by the internationals on the ground supporting them, that there is no ceasefire. Indeed, bomb blasts from the border area punctuated our conversations as we arrived and departed Gaza. On our last night, we sat by a fire in the moonlight in the remains of a friend’s farmyard and listened to him tell of how the Israeli military destroyed his home in 2004, and of how this second home was shattered on 6 February. This time, it was Israeli rockets from Apache helicopters that struck the house. A stand of wheat remained and rustled soothingly in the breeze as we talked, but our attention shifted quickly when F-16s streaked high across the night sky and our friend explained that if the planes tipped to the side, they would strike.
Everywhere, the psychological costs of the recent and ongoing attacks for all Gazans, but especially for the children, were sadly apparent. It is not only those who suffer the greatest losses that carry the scars of all that has happened. It is those, too, who witnessed from their school, bodies flying in the air when police cadets were bombed across the street and those who felt and heard the terrifying blasts of missiles falling near their own homes. It is the children who each day must walk past the unexplainable and inhumane destruction that has occurred.
In Rachel’s case, though a thorough, credible and transparent investigation was promised by the Israeli government, after six years, the position of the US government remains that such an investigation has not taken place. In March 2008, Michele Bernier-Toff, Managing Director of the Office of Overseas Citizen Services at the Department of State, wrote, “We have consistently requested that the Government of Israel conduct a full and transparent investigation into Rachel’s death. Our requests have gone unanswered or ignored.” Now, the attacks on all the people of Gaza and the recent one on Tristan Anderson in Nilin cry out for investigation and accountability. We call on President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and members of Congress to act with fortitude and courage to ensure that the atrocities that have occurred are addressed by the Israeli government and through relevant international and US law. We ask them to act immediately and persistently to stop the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military, not to encourage it.
Despite the pain, we have once again felt privileged to enter briefly into the lives of Rachel’s Palestinian friends in Gaza. We are moved by their resilience and heartened by their song, dance and laughter amidst the tears. Rachel wrote in 2003, “I am nevertheless amazed at their strength in being able to defend such a large degree of their humanity — laughter, generosity, family time — against the incredible horror occurring in their lives … I am also discovering a degree of strength and the basic ability for humans to remain human in the direst of circumstances … I think the word is dignity.” On this sixth anniversary of Rachel’s killing, we echo her sentiments.
i was thinking about these issues this week in a number of different contexts. part of why we know who rachel corrie is today is because of the work of her parents–the foundation in her memory, the publications of her writings. indeed, i am teaching the play, my name is rachel corrie, in my drama class later this semester. to be sure, i would much rather be teaching a play by palestinian american betty shamieh. unfortunately, there is too much sexual content and if i had problems with a raisin in the sun, i suspect i’d be kicked out of nablus if i taught one of her plays. but i have a problem of the foreigner being one of the only voices writing in such a way for the theatre. but of palestinian martyrs how many of them were playwrights? how many of them left behind writings that were published? (yes, of course, palestinian writers and intellectuals have long been targets for assassination by israeli terrorists, most famously ghassan kanafani, but as far as i know none were playwrights.) however, i am also teaching a palestinian play, ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center by fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib. but i wonder how many people know of this play compared to the widely produced play by/about corrie? i find this sad.
too, there are other ways that corrie’s memory lives on in a way that often feels like it supersedes voices of palestinians. in howard zinn’s voices of a people’s history, rachel corrie is one of the voices represented (so is the always brilliant, fabulous rania masri). one of the reasons why i have long been a fan of howard zinn is because of the way he writes history–focusing on the resistance against state powers:
now this historical work is preformed as readings of these voices to bring them alive. below is alice walker reading rachel corrie’s words follwed by danny glover reading frederick douglass’ words:
there are others on the voices website where you can watch others read the words of important people who stood up for justice. and clearly rachel was one of those people. but what of the millions of palestinians who have done that for 122 years? why are their voices not included? okay, yes, i know that the emphasis is on americans, but there are so many americans whose work and words have fueled resistance against israeli colonialism of their land. and even some of lebanese american ameen rihani’s writings in the u.s. about the coloniziation of palestine as it was happening would be important and interesting to include in such a project. but their names are largely absent (indeed very few arab americans at all are featured in this project of zinn’s).
i posted a second video above of the words of frederick douglass because i thought about him today as well. the play i am currently teaching, athol fugard’s master harold and the boys, had an allusion to abraham lincoln by sam, a black south african character living under apartheid who imagined lincoln as a “man of magnitude.” my students had lincoln fresh in their mind because, unfortunately, it seems that many went to that propaganda talk by the u.s. consulate on the mythology of lincoln freeing the slaves. i asked them to think about an analogy. earlier this semester the students went on strike–at all palestinian universities–because their student loans were being taken away from them. as a result of this the loans were reinstated. i asked them if this happened as a result of the university presidents or the presidents of banks who signed the papers changing the ruling. they said, no, of course not! so i talked to them about hundreds of years of resistance among the slaves on a variety of levels. i talked about the resistance of nat turner and freerick douglass. we have to think about the abolition of slavery in the same way: that is the oppressed who fought for justice, yes, often alongside allies, but it is the those who liberate themselves who taste freedom. at the same time, i made sure my students understood the relationship between the building of prisons in the u.s. and the end of slavery so they can see the continuum that exists. but slavery in a prison is different: ordinary people cannot see it. they don’t know about it. and the people are so demonized in a way that crosses all sorts of class and race lines so that there is little solidarity around the abolition of prisons.
i think about these issues a lot right now, partially because the chapter i am writing has a lot to do with palestinian history. i spend so much time reading it, but in the tradition of zinn i find that the most meaningful history comes from oral history. i find that it is more powerful. i find the work of oral historians like rosemary sayigh so important. indeed, i see similar threads in her work and in zinn’s: both take the stories of the people who resist, who struggle, who fight for justice, for their rights. they make those voices central in order to tell their story, their history. the more history i read the less meaning i find in other histories, especially those that focus on the leaders, who always, everywhere, are interested in money and power and little else.