Community Voices

This summer has seen massive protests in Chile on a variety of issues: student movement, Mapuche defense of resources, and demonstrations against damming projects. Tens of thousands of youth have taken to the streets to demand equality in affordable, public education. Our Palestinian youth express their solidarity with the demonstrators,

Mazin Qumsiyeh, coordinator of the popular committee against the apartheid wall and the settlements in Beit Sahour and professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, tells the story of his arrest:

Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator for the popular committee in Bil’in, recently spoke to us about Basem Abu Rahma. Basem had participated in actions against the Wall since they began in the village in 2005 until 17 April, 2009, when he was martyred at age 31 during his last protest in Bil’in.

***image1*** Each day, for the last four months, Khalid Yousef Zeet, a resident and farmer in Qalqiliya, has worked his last three dunums of land despite harassment from Israeli contractors and private security. The activity of bulldozers destroying his land, less than one hundred meters away, takes place while he harvests and replants what is left of his crops. Three dunums of cabbage is all Khalid was left with after November 2002 when the Israeli military confiscated his other five dunums of cropland, bountiful with orange, lemon, guava, and olive trees, for the Wall.

Interview with Suheil Suliman, coordinator of the popular committees in the West Bank.



Only a few days are between us and the anniversary of the Hague ruling. Tell us about the ruling and its importance to Palestinians.






The March 15 protests drew thousands into al Manara Square, Ramallah, and many thousands more to the streets in Gaza. Inspired by the ongoing revolts in the Arab world, youth organizers have defined their own calls for more participation. On al Manara Square among the protestors were a dozen youth on hunger strike, while other protestors in Bethlehem remained camped out in Nativity Square. One youth activist from the West Bank spoke about the demonstrations and their goals:




***image3***Welcome to the rural community of Wad Rahal (the Valley of Travelers) in Palestine. Located only three kilometers from Bethlehem, 1700 people call this village home. This community sits in between Palestine’s hillsides creating a picturesque farming village.



Although at first appearance Wad Rahal seems like an idyllic environment to live, this small community is burdened with struggles imposed upon them by the Occupation.






***image2***Interview with Mr. Manuel Abdel Aal, a member of the executive committee of the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions (PGFTU)



On the occasion of Labour Day, could you tell us about the situation of workers in the occupied Palestinian territories?






Before the Nakba (the mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during and following 1948), the current residents of al Walaja lived in the land that Zionist forces would occupy in 1948. After 1948, a small percentage of those that were expelled moved to present-day al Walaja. Today, several thousand residents are surrounded by the settlements of Battir, Gilo and Har Gilo.




Throughout the course of the anti-Wall movement, Occupation forces have used and developed a variety of “crowd control” or “non-lethal” weapons, which they claim are used to contain demonstrations without causing significant injury to individuals.

***image2***Following the death of her daughter, the mother of Jawaher Abu Rahmah spoke to us in Bil'in about what happened in Bil'in on December 31, the day before Jawaher died.



"Jawaher and I went toward the demonstration near the Wall. In general, the role of women is important in the demonstration; we are always found in the front to protect the youth and to help the injured, to remove them from the clashes. Also, we try to stop the arrest of the youth.






24-year-old Rafat Sa’id al ‘Aish was injured on the December 17, 2010 during a demonstration by a metal tear gas round during the weekly demonstration in al Nabi Saleh. Arafat lives in Kufr Dik, and when the road is blocked by soldiers on Fridays he is forced to walk the 4 kilometers on foot through the mountains.




We spoke with Iyas Abu Rahmah, a 19-year-old activist, photographer and film student from the village of Bil’in. He began by speaking about his work and activism in Bil’in:




On January 18, 2010 Bezeq International signed an exclusive partnership agreement with British Telecom (BT). Bezeq is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bezeq, which not only provides telecommunications to settlements in the West Bank, but also owns some 60 properties (9,300 sq m of land in total) in the West Bank. The company provides services to larger, more entrenched settlements as well as so-called “outposts”, effectively serving to strengthen and expand the settlement project.




Mitri Ghounam's land can be accessed only via a metal gate and fenced off road. The house is surrounded on three sides by either a concrete wall or a metal fence. Beyond the fence there appears to be a construction site. Although the machinery is quiet today because works are stopped for the weekend, one can only imagine the noise that must come from it during the rest of the week.




***image1***My land is located in an area were many peoples lands where confiscated in 1993. During that year I was in prison, and when I was released in 1994 I gave all my time to protect my land from any further attempts to confiscate more. The Occupation forces tried different ways to prevent us from reaching our lands, they would shoot at us while we were heading to the land, or while working in it. Nevertheless we resisted and continued to go to our lands and plant our fields.




***image1***We came to our lands on Sunday and Monday (March 7/8), and then I could not come again for two days as I was sick. We were a group of old women, but the minute we arrived to the lands and the soldiers saw us they stood in one line and they would not let us pass.

***image3***When somebody watches a tragic film for the first time, he feels surprised and sad, and when he watches the same film for the second time, he becomes less surprised and so on. However, the wall tragedy is a live one, its actions renewed daily, its pains and tears are real ones. In more than one and a half years watching the impacts of the wall, every time I visit a new location, or even the same location, I notice new horrible actions took place, as if I see or hear the story of the wall for the first time.

In September, when construction for the Apartheid Wall began in Abu Dis, people living closest to the area of destruction for the Wall continuously resisted its ravaging work. The women and there children from three homes would arrive to the lands being confiscated each day and try to stop the bulldozers, sitting in front of the machines’ unyielding path. After the first time, the Occupation soldiers surrounded their homes in order to prevent the people from reaching their land.

The following is a portion of a presentation/testimony given by Sharif Omar Khaled (Abu Azzam) at the symposium co-organized by PENGON/Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign at The Hague on Saturday, February 21. The symposium, also referred to as the Popular Hearing, sought to provide a platform at The Hague for affected communities to make their struggle known worldwide.







***image1***We came to our lands on Sunday and Monday (March 7/8), and then I could not come again for two days as I was sick. We were a group of old women, but the minute we arrived to the lands and the soldiers saw us they stood in one line and they would not let us pass.

***image1***My land is located in an area were many peoples lands where confiscated in 1993. During that year I was in prison, and when I was released in 1994 I gave all my time to protect my land from any further attempts to confiscate more. The Occupation forces tried different ways to prevent us from reaching our lands, they would shoot at us while we were heading to the land, or while working in it. Nevertheless we resisted and continued to go to our lands and plant our fields.




Al Bandak Stone, one of the oldest factories in Palestine, established in 1967, has been, like all Palestinian economic establishments, routinely targeted by Occupation forces in a continuing attempt to close down and destroy the factory. Al Bandak Stone has faced numerous assaults by Occupation forces over the last years, the most severe occurring during the invasion of Bethlehem in 2002. While the Occupation forces bombarded the nearby Aida Refugee Camp, they also targeted the factory destroying the ceiling and paralyzing one whole section of the facility.

***image1***Walaja is located south west of Jerusalem. The village was Occupied in October 1948, but Palestinian and Egyptian guerillas fought off the Israeli battalions and successfully defended their village. Several times they were able to force the Occupation troops to withdraw, but in the end the village was Occupied. (Al Khalidi, Wallid 1992: All That Remains). The village was then destroyed, and Aminadav settlement was built on its lands along with an Israeli park.




Omar Said -Abu Mohammad- is a farmer from Qalqiliya, and a father of five. Omar's story is an example of how farmers in communities that have their lands isolated behind the Wall suffer to reach their lands.



Omar owns eight dunums of agricultural land to the north of Qalqiliya city, the land is mainly planted with olive trees, and is the family’s main source of income.






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