U.N. peacekeepers due in Syria within 2 days; Assad’s forces continue crackdown

A U.N. peacekeeping team is due to arrive in Syria within 48 hours to discuss deployment of observers to monitor a ceasefire in Syria even as the Syrian regime continued to pound opposition strongholds throughout the country.

“A DPKO (department of peacekeeping operations) planning mission should be arriving in Damascus within 48 hours,” Annan spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told Reuters in Reneva.

But the developments on the grounds have shown little signs of an imminent peace to keep.

Fierce clashes erupted Tuesday as Syria’s regime sent reinforcements into rebel areas and the West sought to warn Damascus of U.N. action unless it sticks to an agreement to pull back its armor.

Monitoring groups reported that heavy fighting had engulfed opposition strongholds in the southern region of Deraa, northwestern Idlib province and areas around the capital.

Dozens of armored personnel carriers arrived in Dael, a town in Deraa province where the uprising began in March 2011, as well as in Zabadani, a bastion of the rebellion near the border with Lebanon.

Sayyed Mahmoud, an activist in Dael reached by Skype, told AFP the situation was extremely tense in the town.
“They burned down 14 houses yesterday. They are arresting people and have sent in troop reinforcements,” he said.

“As part of the regime’s campaign to starve the people, troops are raiding homes, destroying food stocks and equipment,” he added. “For example, if they see a sewing machine, they destroy it.”

“They go into bakeries and destroy the dough. There are 15-hour power cuts a day.”

In Idlib, which borders Turkey, fighting was taking place on the outskirts of Taftanaz, where two civilians and one soldier were killed amid heavy machinegun fire and shelling, said the Observatory.

“Four civilians have been wounded and several homes torched,” it added. “Rebels managed to disable a troop carrier and have killed or wounded a number of government troops.”

In Damascus province, clashes were reported in the towns of Duma and in Zabadani, where the army was carrying out arrests and raiding homes.

The Britain-based Observatory has charged that the army is torching and looting rebel houses across the country in a deliberate campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity.

In a briefing to the 15-member Security Council on Monday, Annan said that “no progress” had been made on reaching a ceasefire, according to diplomats.

The former U.N. chief said the Security Council had to start considering the deployment of an observer mission with a broad mandate to monitor events in Syria.

The partial implementation of Annan’s six-point peace plan would include a full cessation of hostilities within 48 hours of the deadline, diplomats said.

However, Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said Friday the government will not pull tanks and troops from towns and cities engulfed by unrest before life returns to normal there, according to The Associated Press.

The United States, Britain and France were working on a Security Council declaration that would put a formal stamp on the Apr. 10 deadline.

The statement — a draft of which will be sent to Council members on Tuesday — would warn Assad of possible “further measures” if he reneges on the promise made to Annan, one U.N. diplomat told AFP.

Russia has rejected the idea of a deadline for implementation of the peace plan, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying “ultimatums and artificial deadlines rarely help matters.’

Moscow, a Soviet-era ally of the Assad regime, said only the Security Council, where it wields veto power, could put any time restrictions on Syria’s compliance with the peace plan.

Besides the humanitarian ceasefire, Annan’s plan also calls for an inclusive Syrian-led political process, the right to demonstrate, and the release of people detained arbitrarily.

Key opposition figures joined representatives from more than 70 countries, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at Sunday’s “Friends of the Syrian People” conference in Istanbul.

The “Friends” pledged to send millions of dollars and communications equipment to Syria’s opposition groups, pushed for tighter sanctions and diplomatic pressure to further isolate Assad, and urged the opposition to offer a democratic alternative to his regime.

(english.alarabiya.net / 03.04.2012)

Nederlandse vrouw in Palestina met geweld gearresteerd door Israëlische soldaten

Tijdens een vreedzame actie op zondag 1 april is Mira ten Hagen in Hebron met geweld gearresteerd door Israëlische soldaten. De actie was bedoeld om het terugkrijgen van een Palestijnse woning; de mensen waren uit hun huis gezet hoewel ze wel de papieren hadden voor legaal wonen.

In Hebron komt het regelmatig voor dat woningen, liefst bij olijfbomen of in het centrum, illegaal worden overgenomen door Israëlische kolonisten. Dit kan gebeuren door uitkopen, valsheid in geschriften of gewoon het wegtreiteren van de bezitters van de woningen.
Deze keer hadden de Palestijnse families aangegeven dat ze het er niet bij zouden laten zitten, daar ze papieren hebben, waarop duidelijk staat dat ze de rechtmatige eigenaars zijn. Daarnaast is volgens de Oslo akkoorden Hebron Palestijns gebied en zijn de Israëlische soldaten en kolonisten onrechtmatig aanwezig.

De actie begon om 17.00 uur en was bedoeld om het leegstaande huis weer in gebruik te nemen door de rechtmatige eigenaren. Echter er was in de straat een wachtpost die alarm sloeg, waar na vijf minuten Israëlische soldaten zich melden, klaar voor de strijd. Een aantal aanwezige internationale sympathisanten hadden zich op de trap genesteld, om de soldaten af te remmen, zodat het huis schoongemaakt kon worden.  Dit ging even goed, echter na verloop van tijd grepen de Israëlische soldaten de sympathisanten uit elkaar met geweld, waarbij druk- en pijnpunten werden toegepast en ze van de trap afgesleurd werden. Hierbij is de Nederlandse Mira ten Hagen gearresteerd omdat ze ‘zich op Israëlisch grondgebied begaf’ en ze zal voorgeleid worden voor de rechtbank in Jerusalem.

Ondertussen is Mira ten Hagen vrijgelaten maar heeft haar paspoort nog niet terug ontvangen; ze werd bijgestaan door de Nederlandse ambassade.
Gezien de illegaliteit waarmee dit soort acties worden uitgevoerd, roepen we de regering op en zeker de partijen in de Tweede Kamer om in actie te komen. Palestina wordt bezet door een bezettingsmacht die gruwelijke acties uitvoert, laat uitvoeren of helemaal niets onderneemt als Joodse kolonisten dit soort acties uitvoeren.

(Persbericht Stop de Bezetting / 03.04.2012)

“We are only guests in Lebanon” – Palestinians look homewards on Land Day

Young men and barbed wire in foreground with landscape of northern Palestine in background

Palestine was within sight but not within grasp during Land Day commemoration in south Lebanon.

Beaufort Castle is a Crusader fortress on a high promontory with a commanding view of southern Lebanon and northern Palestine. It was the assembly point for demonstrators marking Palestinian Land Day last week. Land Day (30 March) commemorates the Israeli military’s killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting the theft of their land in 1976.

The Global March to Jerusalem this year aimed to mark Land Day as an international event to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinians and to protect Jerusalem. Many international activists from TurkeyIranIndia, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and other countries traveled to Lebanon to participate in the march.

The plan for the activists was to march to the border. However, this was grounded by turbulent Lebanese politics and thus the Global March to Jerusalem from Lebanon only made it several miles north of the Lebanon-Palestine border.    The Lebanese army was deployed along the way to Beaufort. There were checkpoints too all the way along the coastal road south from Beirut. At one checkpoint, near Zahrani, the Lebanese army stopped buses or vans that had a Palestinian flag sticking out of it and forced Palestinian men off the buses for a full search.

Once at Beaufort, the area designated for the celebration was a small arena capable of hosting the 5,000 persons who had been given official permission to attend, though it appeared to this observer that there were no more than 2,000 on top of the hill.

A stage with a sound system was set up, with Beaufort Castle — Qalat al-Shaqif in Arabic — providing a dramatic background. During Israel’s 22-year-long occupation of southern Lebanon which ended in the year 2000, the castle had been a heavily fortified Israeli military outpost.

When the blaring celebratory music died down, a variety of speakers took to the stage, recycling speeches that had been heard before.

Expression of frustration

Amongst the crowd were a few mainly young men who could not bear the fact that Palestine was only a short distance away. In an expression of their frustration a handful of these men crossed the barbed wire, and took off down the steep hill. Regardless of the dangers, they went hoping to reach Palestine.

One young man fell in pursuit of his homeland. He was later rescued by paramedics, lucky to sustain only minor injuries. This action prompted the organizers to take a more strict line with anyone trying to go in the direction of Palestine, and Lebanese riot forces were deployed along the edge of the steep hill.

Right of return “closer than ever”

In 1982, during Israel’s bloody invasion of Lebanon, then Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon stood at this very fortress and declared that the time of Palestinian “terrorism” had finished.

What Sharon meant by “terrorism” is Palestinians’ demand for self-determination in their homeland and the Palestinian people at Beaufort last Friday refuted Sharon’s words.

“We are closer to Palestine than ever before and our right to return feels within nearer grasp than at any other time,” said Abu Jamil, a 38-year-old from Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp. “In times of Arab revolts we know that our Arab brethren won’t forget about us and we are sure they will stand by us and join us in our struggle for Palestine and our right of return.”

This reaching out by Palestinian refugees to their Arab brethren was a sentiment voiced and emphasized by almost every Palestinian with whom I spoke. Many called for support to resurrect the struggle for the right of return and reinvigorate of the Palestinian cause as a whole.

A brutal enemy

“I’m here in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” Ali Taleb, a 53-year-old Lebanese man from Sidon, said. “Land Day is a dear day to us and the Israeli enemy is a brutal one. The Israelis invaded our land and this land means a lot to us, the Arabs too, not only the Palestinians.”

Taleb faulted Arab leaders, who he called “tools in the hands of the West,” for letting down the Palestinians. But he said, “As for the Arab people, the Palestinian cause was never forgotten, it was and still is our central cause.”

“As a Lebanese man, I think resistance is the only solution to regain our land,” Taleb added before specifying that he meant “popular resistance and not some sort of gangs, and militias. Women, children and men all united as people in resistance against our enemy.”

Jerusalem a “city for every human being”

“I’m from Sahel al-Holi area in a village called al-Naami in Palestine,” Ahmad Issa, 46, explained. “My status at the moment is as a Palestinian refugee in the Burj-al-Shamali camp in Tyre. I was born in Lebanon but I always felt that I’m only physically here and my soul is inside, there, in my country.”

“This occasion, Land Day, is an occasion for every human being, for every Arab and not only for Palestinians,” Issa added. “The Palestinian cause is important to all the Arab people more than it’s important to us Palestinians, because Arab leaders are the ones who sold us out. I can see that the new Arab generation is trying to show that they are better than the old generation, who, because of their malpractices, lost us the land.”

“Jerusalem is a city for every human being, every Christian, Muslim and Jew. We and the Jews used to live together in Jerusalem in the past. We never hated one another. The Zionists who founded the State of Israel thought that after sixty years our children would forget but they didn’t forget. ‘The old will die and the young will forget’ turned out to be a false prediction,” Issa said.

Our land

Um Ahmed, age 71, recalled her expulsion from Palestine.

“I’m from the village of Dechoum in the Safad region of Palestine. I remember I was seven years old when we were forced out of our village and walked here to Lebanon. In the past this land was one land but they created a line between us. The enemy has been dividing us for a long time, while we are stuck in inaction,” she said.

“Right now all we need to do is regain Palestine. We first need to clear our hearts and unite as one people without all the unproductive political divisions. Palestine is our right. … I ask God to punish all those who conspired against us, who made us homeless and stateless, and let’s see if they can bear the life we are living. Let them try the humiliation, and deprivation that we go through. We are a people with a right. I’m only here today because I feel close to my country. I want to breathe the air of my country. We are going back to our land and it’s inevitable.

“I embroidered my dress with my own hands; this is our tradition. All of us Palestinians never forgot our traditions, and we pass them on to the new generations,” she added.

Tormenting

Salim, 22, from Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, regretted that thousands had not marched to the border on Friday like they did during the Nakba Day protest last year, marking the anniversary of the dispossession of Palestine.

“I came today to see my land, my country. It’s tormenting to be very close to our land and yet we cannot go. I wish today was like last year on the Nakba day; at least then there was the possibility for us to try and go back. I know people are worried about security and safety but why tell us it’s a global march to Jerusalem and not let us march to it?

“Life as a refugee, as a Palestinian, in Lebanon is really difficult. The humiliation we endure every day from the Lebanese army at the entrance of the camp is itself a reason that makes me want to go back to Palestine regardless of the danger it might bring. I’m 22, jobless and cannot foresee my future or the near future for me and my family.”

Um Mohammad, 72 from Adita, a village near Safad in northern Palestine, also longs to return. She held a black and white framed portrait of her son who died during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

“I was eight years old when my family and I had to leave our house and we walked to Lebanon. I remember we stopped for one day to rest in Bint Jbeil [a village in south Lebanon]. I want the world to see that I’m proud of my son, the martyr. Just like I never stop thinking of my son, Palestine is always on my mind. Here, look, this is the key to our house that we were forced out of in 1948; I wish I can go back to it before I die.”

Today’s celebration had few similarities to last year’s commemoration of the Nakba, when Palestinian refugees from all 12 camps in Lebanon took part in the commemoration. On Friday the numbers were limited. Refugees from the camps in north Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley were not able to participate — the official story was that there were no funds to rent buses to transport participants. That did not stop refugees from marking Land Day, though. In Badawi camp in north Lebanon, Palestinians staged their own celebration.

Many were skeptical about Friday’s event in the south. Rumors which started circulating in the camps two weeks ago created a sense of wariness. It was said by some that Hizballahwould launch missiles at Israel, others said that this celebration was meant to distract attention from the human rights abuses of the Syrian regime.

Ultimately what killed the enthusiasm amongst the youth, and likely discouraged participants, was the fact that the event was not held on the border but several kilometers away. Palestinian refugees who attended the Land Day celebration last weekend were only interested in one thing, their focus was in one direction only: Palestine, their homeland on the horizon.

(electronicintifada.net / 03.04.2012)

Hamas reaches deal to end Gaza fuel crisis

New agreement allows coastal strip’s rulers to send diesel payments to Israel via Palestinian Authority officials.

Palestinians wait to fill containers with fuel at a petrol station in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip’s Hamas government and its rival Palestinian Authority have agreed to an Egypt-brokered deal to end a fuel crisis that has caused daily power cuts in the territory, officials have said.

Under the agreement reached on Tuesday, an Israeli company will supply industrial diesel for the Gaza Strip’s only power plant and a temporary mechanism will be put in place whereby Hamas can pay the bill without dealing directly with its enemy Israel.

“The Hamas authorities in Gaza will pay the money … to the PA [Palestinian Authority] and the PA will take care of the payment to the Israeli side,” said the official, who asked not to be identified.

Taher al-Nono, spokesman of the Hamas government in Gaza, said fuel would begin flowing on Wednesday. A first payment of two million Israeli shekels [$539,000] had already been transferred to the PA, he said.

Major power blackouts have plagued the Gaza Strip, disrupting the lives of many of its 1.7 million inhabitants, since February when neighbouring Egypt cracked down on fuel smuggling into the enclave.

Gaza grid

Hamas accused Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority of causing the crisis in the hope of winning political concessions from the group, which has opposed US-backed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Officials from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement have accused Hamas of pouring revenues from smuggled fuel into the movement’s coffers.

The Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, lost control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 in a brief civil war between Hamas and Fatah. The PA exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The fuel crisis, which left Gaza residents with power only six hours a day and disrupted transportation, stirred public criticism of Hamas.

Ghassan al-Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, confirmed receipt of the first fuel payment, calling the deal a temporary arrangement until a long-term supply arrangement is reached with Egypt.

Gaza’s power plant provides electricity to two-thirds of its population. Power is also supplied to the Gaza grid through power lines from Israel and Egypt.

(www.aljazeera.com / 03.04.2012)

Israeli mayor ‘plans new East Jerusalem settlement’

A woman stands near a construction site in Gilo, a Jewish settlement that Israel erected on land it captured in 1967.
TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — Israel’s Jerusalem Mayor plans to establish a new Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, according to news reports Tuesday.

Around 200 new homes are planned for the area, which lies between Abu Dis and Jabal al-Mukkabir, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The settlement, referred to as Kidmat Zion, will be built on land purchased by Irving Moskowitz, a Florida businessman and patron of Jewish settlers.

Moskowitz also bought the landmark Shepherd Hotel in Sheik Jarrah, whose historic Palestinian owners — the Husseini family — lost a legal case to recognize their title to the property on Monday.

According to Haaretz, Mayor Nir Barakat took the settlement plans to three council members of the leftist Meretz party, and they threatened to withdraw from the coalition if he implements the plan.

The settlement “will split East Jerusalem in two and destroy any chance of dividing the city and of reaching a peace agreement,” Council member Meir Margalit said, according to the report.

(www.maannews.net / 03.04.2012)

‘Prawer Plan’ to uproot Bedouins shows folly of the phrase ‘democratic Israel’

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Protesters in Tel Aviv two years ago called on the Israeli government to recognize Bedouin villages

Peter Beinart’s pro-settlement boycott article in the New York Times has rightly been critiqued from the left for ignoring the fact that “Israel is only a ‘genuine democracy’ for its Jewish citizens,” as Adam Horowitz put it. A close look at the Israeli government’s Prawer Plan, which calls for the forced relocation of tens of thousands of citizens of Israel, further shows why the notion of a “democratic Israel” is a farce.

Beinart’s NYT Op-Ed constantly mentions “democratic Israel,” or variations on the phrase, to distinguish between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and “Israel proper.” But how do the Bedouin citizens of Israel targeted for forced relocation fit into this “democratic Israel”? The answer is they don’t.

The Prawer Plan, recently okayed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, calls for the uprooting of 30,000 Bedouin citizens living in the Negev. The Israeli government wants to move these citizens to “recognized” communities set up by the state. Part of the plan is to build new, Jewish-only settlements on the formerly Bedouin land, where generations of Bedouins have been living, longer than the State of Israel has existed. The Bedouin communities are not happy with the plan, but the Israeli government is offering them money and support for infrastructure to convince them to move.

It sounds like a typical story in the occupied West Bank (minus the incentives to move), but this is happening on the Israeli side of the ever-fading Green Line. And the people Israel wants to uproot are citizens.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Adalah have more on the Prawer Plan:

With respect to the unrecognized villages: the organizations stress that the proposed legislation ignores the fact that most of these villages have existed on their lands since before the establishment of the State, while others were established when the Israeli military government forcibly relocated Bedouin residents from their lands in the 1950′s. Underlying the proposed law is the sweeping misconception that the 70,000 people residing in 36 unrecognized villages are squatters without rights to the land.

With respect to the issue of land ownership in the Negev: the organizations argue that the facts, supported by ample legal precedents, formal reports and research, prove Bedouin ties and ownership to the lands in question. The government, however, ignores these facts, while purporting that the “arrangement” it intends to impose on the residents is actually for the benefit of Bedouin citizens.

The organizations warn that the central tenant of the proposed law is the “concentration” of Bedouin in limited predefined areas which will force them to abandon their traditional agricultural livelihood, while industrial areas, a military base, and new Jewish settlements are expected to be established on the lands of the unrecognized Bedouin villages. The proposal includes the use of administrative authority, similar to the emergency powers of legislation reserved for wartime, in a manner which would grossly violate the residents’ rights to due process. Accordingly, this proposal would enshrine wholesale discrimination against the residents of unrecognized villages into law.

And today, Neve Gordon, the author of Israel’s Occupation, takes us deep inside the Bedouin Negev to explore the Prawer Plan. Here are some excerpts from his Al Jazeera English piece:

“It is not every day that a government decides to relocate almost half a per cent of its population in a programme of forced urbanisation,” Rawia Aburabia asserted, adding that “this is precisely what Prawer wants to do”.

The meeting, which was attempting to coordinate various actions against the Prawer Plan, had just ended, and Rawia, an outspoken Bedouin leader who works for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, was clearly upset. She realised that the possibility of changing the course of events was extremely unlikely and that, at the end of the day, the government would uproot 30,000 Negev Bedouin and put them in townships. This would result in an end to their rural way of life and would ultimately deprive them of their livelihood and land rights.

Rawia’s wrath was directed at Ehud Prawer, the Director of the Planning Policy Division in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office. Prawer took on this role after serving as the deputy director of Israel’s National Security Council. His mandate is to implement the decisions of the Goldberg Committee for the Arrangement of Arab Settlement in the Negev, by offering a “concrete solution” to the problem of the 45 unrecognised Bedouin villages in the region.

The wholly undemocratic Prawer Plan is only the latest indignity to target Bedouin citizens of Israel. Their homes, and even full villages like Al Araqib, are frequently demolished.

Gordon provides more history in his piece, further showing that non-Jews living within Israel have always been inferior in the eyes of the state:

Under the directives of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, many of the remaining Bedouin were uprooted from the lands they had inhabited for generations and were concentrated in the mostly barren area in the north-eastern part of the Negev known as the Siyag (enclosure) zone…

After their relocation and up until 1966, the Bedouin citizens of Israel were subjected to a harsh military rule; their movement was restricted and they were denied basic political, social and economic rights. But even in the post-military rule of the late 1960s, many Israeli decision makers still considered the Bedouin living within the Siyag threatening and occupying too much land.

These are not the actions of a democracy.

It’s important to acknowledge that there are differences in how Israel rules over its own citizens versus those in the West Bank and Gaza. But the difference is more a matter of the degree of repression than a stark contrast between a “democratic” state and a “non-democratic” occupied area.

How Israel functions stays the same on both sides of the Green Line: ethnic privilege for Jews, and inferior status for non-Jews in every area of life. The Prawer Plan is a glaring example of that. As Rawia Aburabia, an attorney for ACRI, says:

The attempt to enshrine the Prawer Plan into law is a farce. A democratic state cannot pass a law of discrimination, one that violates human rights and continues to harm a minority that has suffered from neglect and discrimination dating back to the founding of the State. Demolishing an Arab Bedouin village in order to establish a Jewish settlement on its ruins is not the action of a democracy – it is a step that takes us back to the military regime.

(mondoweiss.net / 03.04.2012)

Gaza bloedt op Landdag

In Gaza werden op de Landdag van 30 maart duizenden demonstranten door de Palestijnse politie weerhouden om naar de grenzen te marcheren. Een segment vond alsnog een weg naar de grens met Israël, waar ze geconfronteerd werden met de kogels van het leger. Een dertigtal mensen zijn gewond, één persoon is in kritieke toestand en het dodenregister kent ook een nieuw nummer. Zijn naam is Mahmoud Zaqou
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Gaza’s jeugd in actie: “Het volk wil Palestina bevrijden!” en Al Quds (Jeruzalem) natuurlijk.
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Zaterdag. Hoofdpijn roffelt tussen mijn trommelvliezen. Al van gisteren in de vroege ochtend, toen ik mezelf betrapte op de gedachte of dit een slecht voorteken zou zijn. Het bleek helaas inderdaad een vreselijke dag.

De mars naar Jeruzalem zou haar bestemming niet bereiken, zeker niet vanuit de Gazastrook. De weg is namelijk afgesloten door het militair fort Israël. Duizenden demonstranten werden vandaag echter door Hamas autoriteiten verhinderd om naar de grens te marcheren.

De massa werd teruggedreven tot een punt dat op enkele kilometers van de grens lag en er braken onlusten uit, waarbij demonstranten met geweld teruggedreven werden door politie. Veldwegeltjes doorbraken het Hamas cordon. Een tweehonderdtal jonge Palestijnse manifestanten bevonden zich tussen het Hamas checkpoint en de barrières aan de Israëlische zijde van de grenspost Erez.

Landdag

Sinds 1976 herdenken Palestijnen op 30 maart Landdag. Op de eerste herdenking werden toen zes mensen gedood.

Tijdens deze herdenking protesteren de deelnemers tegen de confiscatie van honderden hectare land. Deze gronden werden voorzien voor de constructie van een gesloten militaire zone met negen kolonies voor een exclusief Joodse bevolking. werden toen zes mensen gedood.

Landdag symboliseert de strijd tegen de zionistische kolonisatie van Palestijns land en dit jaar wordt de onbereikbaarheid van Jeruzalem benadrukt. Jeruzalem, de verhoopte hoofdstad van de toekomstige Palestijnse staat en belangrijk heiligdom, staat als kroonstuk symbool voor het koloniale onrecht.

Handvol mieren tegen stalen olifant

We naderen en grijszwarte wolkjes verschijnen langs de grens. De vage geur van traangas waait onze richting uit terwijl we dwars door de restanten van het groene Beit Hanoun wandelen.

Luid geloei: de massa is enthousiast over de buitenlandse aanwezigheid. Er is nergens pers te bespeuren, enkel ‘shabaab’, jonge mannen tussen ongeveer 14 en 25 jaar oud.

De barricades in prikkeldraad worden neergehaald, terwijl anderen stenen gooien in de richting van de Israëlische infrastructuur. Ik word nerveus, want stenen worden meestal met kogels beantwoord door Israël. We bevinden ons op enkele honderden meter van de betonnen muur en ik tel drie wachttorens: één voor ons, één links en één rechts, maar geen teken van menselijk leven aan de andere kant.

De stenen doen hun verplichte luchtsalvo’s en landen even verder op het asfalt. Het lijkt zinloos, dit gevecht van een handvol mieren tegen een stalen olifant. Maar ik probeer de symboliek van de actie te bevatten. Het is een manier om hun gesmoorde stemmen te laten weerklinken. “We zijn hier en we zullen niet rusten tot gerechtigheid geschied, tot we vrij zijn en het land bevrijd is.”

Kogels

De eerste kogel weerklinkt. In een reflex duikt de massa naar de grond tot een schreeuw weerklinkt. Een jonge man is in het been geraakt. Hij wordt ijlings afgevoerd naar een motor waar hij geklemd wordt tussen de bestuurder en een tweede passagier. Ambulances staan namelijk geblokkeerd op een kilometer van de volksdemonstratie.

Terwijl sommigen langs de kant toekijken op het spektakel, is het vooraan chaotisch. De buitenlandse aanwezigheid lijkt de troepen kracht te geven. De vrees kalft af en de jonge mannen trekken verder naar voor. Opnieuw een kogel en hetzelfde scenario herhaalt zich. Een hand geraakt, vervolgens een been en een voet.

Twee kogels verwonden vier mensen.  Het Israëlisch leger schiet waarschijnlijk met ‘dumdum kogels’ die exploderen zodra ze hun doelwit raken. Maakt onze buitenlandse aanwezigheid werkelijk een verschil? Palestijnen willen ons beschermen en hopen tegelijkertijd dat onze aanwezigheid hen beschermt.

Rondom mij hoor ik mensen schreeuwen om verder naar voor te trekken, anderen willen zich terug trekken. Een nieuwe kogel scherpt de chaos aan. Opnieuw een gewonde.

Wansmakelijk geweld

Ebaa, een jonge Palestijnse vrouw barst in tranen uit. “Ik kan dit niet zien. Kijk naar onze jongens, ze vallen al vliegen! Ik wil hier zijn, maar wil hier niet zijn. Ben ik zwak omdat ik dit niet aankan? Hoe kan iedereen zo rustig blijven? Hoe kunnen ze doorgaan?”

Ze staakt haar twitterberichten en kijkt me verscheurd aan. Ik voel me leeg, murw geslagen, en vrees dat dit wansmakelijk geweld dat zo intens is, zo ongelijk en zo onrechtvaardig, me niet langer raakt en op den duur normaal wordt.

Mensen worden voornamelijk in de ledematen geraakt, maar Mahmoud Zaqout, 20 jaar oud, wordt in de borststreek geraakt en sterft. In de chaos en het gewemel van lichamen die elkaar verdrukten, dacht ik dat het om een schotwonde in de arm ging.

Het duurt enkele uren voor mijn gevoel opnieuw wakker wordt geschud. Het is de foto van de dode jonge bebloede man, die de verdoofdheid doorprikt en het gevoel aanwakkert. Ik lees dat het Israëlisch leger “acted within the rules of engagement, firing warning shots before directly targeting him.”

Woede en verontwaardiging verdrukken de verse tristesse. Ik heb meer dan tien schoten gehoord toen ik daar was en met uitzondering van één, raakten ze allen het vlees en bot van ongewapende mensen.

Er was geen waarschuwing voor Mahmoud noch voor de anderen, een dertigtal naar schatting, die geraakt werden door Israëlische kogels. Er is enkel de ervaring die hen leert dat opkomen voor vrijheid, tegen de Israëlische bezetting, dodelijk kan zijn.

Gaza’s volksverzet, werd gisteren gefnuikt door de lokale autoriteiten en vervolgens bloedig onderdrukt door de Israëlische bezetter. Verzet, zelfbestuur, kolonialisme en onderdrukking: Gaza is complex. De dag is nog steeds triest en de toekomst lijkt somber.

Hopelijk rust je in vrede, Mahmoud Zaqout.

(www.dewereldmorgen.be / 03.04.2012)