December 2002


Marie Campbell is a retired University of Victoria professor who left on December 12, 2002 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.

Qalquilya – December 25, 2002

Checkpoint duty

Today, I spent a couple of hours at the checkpoint outside of Qalquilya, observing what was happening. (I do have it written up but finding the time to sit at a computer is not easy.) At the checkpoint, we make our presence felt by the soldiers as they process people wanting to move themselves or their goods into or out of the city.

It is such a time and energy-consuming thing, just moving a few miles. Our presence reminds soldiers that they must operate under international law and rather than by their own whim. I felt that my first shift there went well. We resisted the soldiers’ attempts to get us to move. While we watched them, the checkpoint was opened more often to allow people to pass.

Being an older woman is a “plus” here. For one thing, I am not really afraid of young men, even in uniform and carrying a gun. And secondly, the soldiers tend to be somewhat more respectful of older women. And they don’t have to do the macho thing with me, as they do with the men in our ISM group.

I must say that I can’t imagine how the Palestinians stand the level of everyday controls that they must live with. Life here is so different from across the Green Line, in Israel. For the week that I was in Israel, I could and did travel, and do everything just as I would have at home. The only signs of trouble or potential trouble were the heightened security posted in public buildings, and of course the ever-present sight of soldiers travelling with their guns. My Israeli friends talked about the troubles, of course. But life continues more or less as we know it at home, while in Palestine, we are really under a state of siege.

Here in Qalquilya, the physical infrastructure, the city and country environment, the means of making a life are being destroyed, and this issue of movement – people simply are not at liberty here. They are prisoners in their homes.

Marie

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Marie Campbell is a retired University of Victoria professor who left on December 12, 2002 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.

Qalqilya – Monday, December 23, 2002

Qalqilya, Apartheid Wall, new assignments

I have been assigned to Qalqilya; it is on the Green line just west of Nablus. Getting stuff out is really a big, big problem. Time is a problem; the curfew is a bigger problem. Now I am out in the field and there is much to be done and bigger problem – the computers. I have some good pictures of the training to send, but alas, in this town the Internet cafe computers have no ISPs.

We travelled here through Israel, and I had to bury my notes in my bag so that I wouldn’t give away my identity as an activist, if searched at a checkpoint. I have so much to say and so little time to say it. For instance, we were turned back at the local checkpoint in Qalqilya after our drive from Bethlehem today. We (seven activists) followed a group of Palestinians (Red Crescent workers and local farmers who had also been turned back) through the fields and orange orchards and mud, to circumvent (bypass) the soldiers who had turned us back. High drama. I felt I was in a movie.

There will be a big Women in Black demonstration in Tel Aviv on Friday and we are hoping to go to that. Distances are short, especially in Israel, where one can drive on good roads and no roadblocks or checkpoints. I’ll try to get to an Internet cafe there and send some pictures.

Till then, I’m to accompany farmers who are being bullied and threatened (including being beat up and shot) by “settlers” who surround the agricultural lands. This is a fertile area and settlement is heavy. Also, I’ll be accompanying ambulances, as soldiers hold them up at checkpoints. That is night work and therefore very tiring.

The farmers and villagers are planning a demonstration on Sunday to protest the building of the Security Fence, called by locals “the Wall” and by activists the “Apartheid Wall”. The Wall is proceeding through this area and a lot of land is being confiscated, not just for the Wall itself, but also for security areas and roads on either side. We expect a strong and angry response by the army. They use tear gas and percussion bombs on demonstrators and detain people. I’m not looking forward to this, as we will be walking at the front, I hear.

I’m living in an apartment with my action group here. Since houses are not being bulldozed down here as they are in Gaza and Nablus, we have not been placed with a family.

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Marie

Marie Campbell is a retired University of Victoria professor who left on December 12, 2002 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.

Bethlehem – December 20, 2002

Damascus Gate to Beit Sahour

I left Tel Aviv today in a pouring rain and it hasn’t let up. I arrived in the central Jerusalem bus station, and called for instructions to get into the OT. The instructions were simple “Take a taxi to the Damascus Gate, cross the checkpoint and get a taxi on the other side to Beit Sahour” where our training is to be held.

It didn’t work out quite so easily, although to reassure you, I ran into no official trouble. Rather, it was taxi “business” that intervened. The first taxi either didn’t know, or pretended not to know, where the checkpoint was and dropped me, in the pouring rain, at something he said was the Damascus Gate. I found a taxi driver who spoke English and who explained how to take a bus to the checkpoint, which was quite a way. I disembarked, again in pouring rain, (I am soaked now) and met up on foot with the soldiers, who just wanted to see my passport.

The curfew was lifted all day today in Bethlehem, unusual. Someone told me it was because of the rain. I don’t know the relevance of that, but it means that everyone is out doing things that they haven’t been able to do for days. I’ve learned since that the curfew is being lifted for the Christmas season, presumably because they expect tourists.

I got to the Three Kings Hotel – a nice building but almost totally dead. There was no reception staff, just someone who came and offered me a room key. I heard and saw several other foreigners with backpacks and assume they are my ISM colleagues. But I had another piece of business to do – I was carrying $1000 US to a Palestinian friend of an Israeli, to help buy medicines, etc. So, I made cell phone contact with the man (Christian Palestinian), he picked me up from my hotel and took me to his house in Bethlehem, where I was served roasted chestnuts, German stollen and Turkish coffee.

Then he delivered me into the hands of his friend at a closed Internet café. (Everything is closed here in Bethlehem – the serious economical effect of the incursions). Here in the “closed” Internet cafe, both the operator and his friend, a Mohawk-College-(Hamiton)-trained guy, have been helping me think through the problem with emailing digital pictures from my camera. And as I think you will see, we have solved it. There is just one computer hooked up here and a very slow line, but the issue was the size of files and making sure that we have the capacity.

I’m fine. Haven’t seen the tanks that routinely patrol during curfew, and do other nasty things. Here in Bethlehem, it is post curfew (that is, we are under curfew again) but my hotel is within sight of the Internet cafe, so I can go back when all is quiet outside. There is a surreal feel to my typing this message in this place, with a Christmas tree all decorated and lights winking at me. The operator of the cafe is preparing a Christmas party for the 24th in this currently deserted-looking site.

My friend this afternoon says that he is waiting to see what will happen on the 24th, as the army is demanding to patrol along with the normal Christmas Eve parade of “the faithful” through the streets of Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity. The clerics are refusing . This may be trouble. (The issue here is that the church is shared by four religious groups or denominations, each walking with their leader at the head.)

There is a big political demonstration in Bethlehem on Christmas day, too. Watch for TV coverage.

Marie

Marie Campbell is a retired University of Victoria professor who left on December 12, 2002 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.

Haifa – December 17, 2002 at 6 a.m

International conference on “Democracy and Terror” at Haifa University, Israel. Preparing to leave for Palestine and training in Ramallah.

I’m sitting this morning at a desk in the Youth Hostel in Carmel, near Haifa. From my window, when it gets light, I’ll have a view of the Mediterranean Sea. Behind me, rises Mount Carmel, on the very top of which is a 30-storey tower.

Yesterday, I went to Haifa University where I attended a research meeting (held in English for my benefit) of an Education Faculty project, called “Promoting Dialogue in Multi-cultural Communities of Teachers and Students”.

I left that meeting and walked across campus to the Law School’s (free) international conference on “Democracy and Terror”. I arrived in time to hear Aharon Barak, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, give the opening address. Barak is coming under heavy criticism, especially by the government here, for being an “activist judge”. (I should mention that a security agent stood behind the speakers on the platform the whole time. As a matter of course, security personnel are positioned at all doors of university buildings – and at all public buildings everywhere.)

Barak’s recent rulings have held the state of Israel and its officials culpable for breaches of human rights. In his opinion, laws affecting security and human rights must be balanced, but in no case, should human rights protection be suspended in times of war or terrorist threats. He pointed out that it is precisely in such times that a democracy is tested and its legitimacy as a democracy stands or fails on its capacity to maintain human rights. Even to the extent, he said, of protecting personal freedoms when it may make it harder to stop terrorism.

I am hearing the different perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian situation as it is played out here. Members of the government speak their positions (e.g., on the Sharon “war crimes’ challenge still before the court in Belgium). Here the AG’s official discusses the case in terms of “politicization” of international tribunals, and mentions the increasing anti-Semitism in Europe. It appears that for those in the government camp, “politicization” is a code word for anti-Semitism.

The next speaker, Prof. Fletcher, Columbia University, went into theUSA situation, analyzing the US use of the “enemy combatant” category to suspend human rights of the people it is holding now. He criticized this practice and discussed the way it is being handled in the courts in the USA, drawing on precedents such as the 1942 execution of six “spies” by Roosevelt’s government, without the benefit of legal proceedings.

I’m rather excited about the Education Faculty’s research project I was introduced to yesterday. The research brings together teachers from Jewish, Arab (Palestinian) and Druse (Christian Arab) schools in the area for a structured program of lecture-discussions and interactive work using art and music. They are learning to talk to each other as human to human. What their project is accomplishing (whether or not it “fixes” anything) is a useful way of thinking about peace locally – as a process of working together versus a preconceived place to arrive.

I’m being treated very warmly by these folks, and indeed, feel pretty at home here. You will recognize that I am accessing those academics (apparently there are many) that hold progressive views about Palestine.

Tomorrow, I hope to grab a bus to Tiberius. Then it is back to Tel Aviv, where I will leave my academic gear and persona and pick up my sleeping bag and head into Jerusalem and over into the Occupied Territories, as they are called here.

I’ve been in touch with ISM and hear that because Bethlehem is still under curfew, our training may take place in Ramallah. Although I am not tuned into local news reports, it was reported to me that Jaggi Singh was refused entry and today I have a message from Canada saying he is fighting it (He would, of course.). I hope that I get to meet him in Palestine.

Marie

December 9, 2002

Victoria Senior Answers Call For Observers In Palestine

Marie Campbell, a retired University of Victoria professor, leaves on December 12 to spend a month in Palestine doing observational work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Since the summer of 2001, ISM has been organizing campaigns in which international observers from Europe and North America act not only as witnesses, but also provide a measure of protection and emotional support to Palestinians.

International observers document and report back to their local communities what is actually happening in Palestine. Dr. Campbell, 66, was inspired to undertake this trip after hearing accounts and seeing video clips in a presentation by Neta Golan and George Rishmawi, ISM organizers who recently visited the University of Victoria.

“As a senior citizen, I am exactly the right kind of person to do this work”, said Campbell. “I’m no longer tied to a job, so I have the necessary time and energy. I can call on my experience from years of involvement in social justice issues.

“My commitment comes from being increasingly worried about the state of the world where militarism seems to be accepted as the answer to everything that is wrong. It is very scary. One feels so impotent. One thing that I can do is write and offer a perspective that is missing from what usually appears in the Canadian media.”

Upon arrival in Palestine, Dr. Campbell will undergo training in nonviolent forms of resistance to the Israeli military occupation and will be billeted in a Palestinian home. Dr. Campbell’s trip is being assisted by the Victoria Peace Coalition, which is purchasing a digital camera for her use. Donations can be made to the Victoria Peace Coalition through Susan Clarke,  dolcla [at] islandnet.com

For more information on the ISM see www.palsolidarity.org.

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