A letter from Marie to Jeff Weaver, CBC Radio in Victoria
Did you hear my message from the battle zone last Sunday with the percussion bombs, tear gas and rubber bullets, not to mention people yelling? All this happened when a peaceful protest against what is now being called the “apartheid wall” turned nasty, here in Jayyous, West Bank, Occupied Territories, as the border police and army combined to stop the protesters from leaving the village. The pictures that I sent Susan tell some of the story: the protest was a grassroots organized event, moving from 12 villages to a central point in Jayyous for speeches and the plan was to go out of the village to stand where we could see the land that is being confiscated and torn up by earthmoving equipment for the wall. The concrete wall is 8 metres high, buttressed by 50 metres of trench, with an electric fence and a military road, being built along side of it.
Here in Jayyous where I am staying for the next week, the distress is significant. The wall is surrounding the village and cutting off the farmers from their land and from their traditional means of earning their living. I have been assigned to this region near Qalquilya, near Nablus, which is unusually fertile and has important aquifers that make farming possible in this dry land. Of course such resources are appreciated by the Israeli settlements that have protruded into the Occupied Territories further and further, increasingly during the so-called Oslo Peace Process. These settlements are, of course, the hidden basis for the Second Intifada. (Hidden from the world, that is, but so very visible to anybody’s eyes here.)
The settlement movement escalated throughout the 90s. Looking west from where I have been living for the past 10 days, what you see is pervasive urban sprawl. It is especially obvious at night when lights burn all around my village. I feel as if I am looking at Toronto and environs – an encirclement of lights.
Well, that is what is on my mind this morning. But the story has many parts. “The occupation” itself is a story that is overwhelming to someone like me – how people can live in a place where an occupying army has control over one’s movements and can exercise that control violently, almost at will. Curfew means that people are supposed to stay home when it is called (Qalqiliya was under curfew constantly for the first five days I was here) and if caught outside, they are subject to detainment, or actual arrest, if not beating.
In my area, about ten people have been killed in the past two weeks, including an 8-year-old boy. Arrest is arbitrary – someone can be snatched, taken away, with apparently no need to follow legal procedures for arraignment, charges, etc. We lost a member of the local press in just this manner last Sunday. He is being held in prison although his charge sheet is clear. I have spent some time at road checkpoints, watching and talking to soldiers, reminding them that they have responsibilities as occupiers. It appears that they believe their job is to make Palestinians as miserable as possible, waiting in the rain, humiliated. The notion of “apartheid” is a big topic.
So, I am here at Jayyous till about January 13. I am spending the week accompanying farmers to their fields across the construction of the wall. Soldiers and private security officers harass them. Many, especially women, have found it so hard that they have given up going. They have to walk, as I did yesterday, and their harvested produce is hard to get to market anyway, owing to permanently blocked roads. The roads are another topic.
The people are so worried about their future, their economy, their families, their land held in some cases for centuries, and many with papers from the British Mandate. It is obvious that the wall, rather than the solution to Israeli security, is, in contrast, a new sort of trouble that is not going to end soon or easily. These farmers are going to fight for their land. And Jayyous, what was till now a peaceful agricultural community, is being turned into a very angry one. Even so, they are using nonviolent means to struggle. For instance, 1,000 fruit trees were delivered to Jayyous yesterday to be planted outside the wall to support their claim that this land is theirs, and they are not willing to relinquish it.
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.