Report from Palestine by Don Bryant

Report from Palestine by Don Bryant who recently participated in the Global March To Jerusalem from Cleveland, Ohio. Don Bryant is Co-Chair of Al-Awda Cleveland (Al-Awda, The Palestine Right To Return Coalition http://www.al-awda.org) and a member of other social justice organizations including immigration support networks. Don was injured by a tear gas canister fired at his head by Israeli Occupation Forces during the Global March To Jerusalem where he participated in the march amongst Palestinians in Ramallah.

By Don Bryant:

As I prepare to leave the West Bank of occupied Palestine I am saddened to leave behind many new friends and will hold dear their generosity and graciousness. Old and new friends alike, in Al-Bireh (Ramallah), Beit Sahour (Bethlehem), and Hebron, occupied Palestine have given me much comfort and have assisted me in witnessing the struggles and the successes of Palestinians living under military occupation for 64 years.

In Ramallah, I started my education at Al-Haq (The Truth), an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization. Al-Haq documents violations of individual and collective human rights of Palestinians, regardless of the perpetrator – Israel or Palestine. The director, Shirin, provided me with pamphlets that describe the practical, legal, and social aspects of the military occupation of Palestine, including the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem; the expulsion of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from Jerusalem; the “annexation wall” that is incorrectly called a “security barrier” as it’s meandering length is twice that of the 1949 ‘green line,’ case studies of illegal Israeli settlements encroaching on Palestinian villages; and legal maneuvering that restricts Palestinians from building, improving, and retaining ownership of their property in historic Palestine, now Israel. Shirin also gave a DVD presentation highlighting these issues. http://www.alhaq.org.

After spending a few days in Al-Bireh, reading and gardening amidst an olive grove and an old fig tree, I departed for Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem.

In Beit Sahour, I home-stayed with a Palestinian activist, Mazin, and his family. Two other internationals from North Hampton, Mass. USA, joined us the next morning and we went on a tour to some of the occupation sites. Two other British-internationals joined us, as well. First we passed the Intercontinental Hotel in Bethlehem which had once been a palace under Ottoman rule. Under British rule it was turned into a prison where Mazin’s uncle had been incarcerated for political expression. Later it was converted to a school which Mazin attended.

Next we went to see the apartheid wall in Bethlehem, with its grafittied face depicting Palestinian revolutionary heroine Leila Khaled and the inscription, “Don’t Forget the Struggle.” A number of writings were also inscribed on the wall; this is one of them:

“I Am a Dying Woman”

“All my life was in Jerusalem! I was there daily. I worked there at a school as a volunteer and all my friends live there. I used to belong to the Anglican church in Jerusalem and was a volunteer there. I arranged the flowers and was active with the other women. I rented a flat but I was not allowed to stay because I did not have a Jerusalem ID card. Now I cannot go to Jerusalem; the Wall separates me from my church, my life. We are imprisoned here in Bethlehem. All my relationships with Jerusalem are dead. I am a dying woman.”
Antoinette, Bethlehem –

Jerusalem is in walking distance from Bethlehem but the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) at the checkpoint allow very few to enter Jerusalem. Palestinians can only go if they have medical needs, hold a Jerusalem ID, are VIPs, or are collaborators with the Israelis.

We walked through the Aida refugee camp where 60% of the inhabitants are children. Mazins concern is the high population density and the cracked walls of homes and other structural deficiencies will likely result in calamity when the next earthquake strikes.

We passed through the village of Beit Jala, meaning place of the beautiful one. This was the part-time home of St Nicholas and is one of the Bethlehem villages. The Beit Jala Hospital is where I was taken by ambulance the next day after I was struck in the head by a tear gas canister during the Global March to Jerusalem. (Luckily, the projectile hit me AFTER bouncing off a wall).

We then reached our final destination of this morning’s “occupation tour”. In annexed East Jerusalem is the village of Al Walaja, isolated between the ‘green line’ and the apartheid wall. The IOF had destroyed the original village but the people of Al Walaja rebuilt next to the old village. This village is caught in the midst of many issues: Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem, the ‘wall’, the ‘green line’, the refugee crisis, and illegal Zionist settlements. Although the villagers are adjacent to Jerusalem they never were given IDs for Jerusalem. In the rebuilt village of Al Walaja, 33 homes have been demolished, and 88 are slated for demolition. The villagers have never engaged in armed resistance, only nonviolence.

The wall is just 70% complete, which is the only reason we could access Al Walaja. When the wall is complete there will be one enrance/ exit. Three walls will be built around one farmer’s house separating family from their olive groves. After 3 years the grove area will be confiscated as “untended property”.

The Cremisan Monestary is next to Al Walaja. Cremisan wine is made there. The Cremison monks HAVE NOT been supportive of the indigenous villagers.

Mazin stated that the purpose of the wall is to squeeze the economy and livilihood of Palestinians and IS NOT for security as Israel claims.

(This concludes Part One/ Next up: Land Day – The Global March to Jerusalem; Hebron violence and non-violence; Ofer court and jail visit; and more.)

This April 9th will be the 64th commemoration of the infamous massacre at Deir Yassin when Zionist terrorists brutally murdered the native inhabitants of this historic village of Palestine on April 9, 1948 to make way for the state of Israel, established just over one month after the slaughter in Deir Yassin. In 1948 there were 33 such massacres to expel the indigenous Palestinians from their land. Remember Deir Yassin. “We Shall Return,” is the Palestinian promise.

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