Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Silence You Create in Me

My latest frustration is my lack of appropriate responses. Really, this is a symptom of a greater illness-the reality of the occupation. I feel like so frequently I am at a total loss, appalled to the point where my body and mind cannot create what would be interpreted as a “response.” I will share with you the escalation of violence, of occupation, of apartheid, through my incapability to react to those around me.
1. Ellen Stark, 20 years old from Washington State, my friend and fellow volunteer with ISM, shot at point blank range (4 meters) with a rubber coated steel bullet while standing with medics at a demonstration in the West Bank village of An Nabi Saleh. What do I say to someone who has just had a bullet surgically removed from their arm and has broken wrist from the impact? “I’m sorry that the army chose you to ‘make an example of you’ in an attempt to deter internationals from supporting the nonviolent resistance to the occupation?” “I broke my wrist too! Last summer, only I was drinking and fell off a roof; yours is way worse.” “At least they didn’t shot you in the head, like they did to the boy later in the demo. Isn’t he still in a coma? What about the boy last week who was shot in the head, is he still in the hospital? I’m glad that wasn’t you.” “Have you told your parents that the Israeli military shot you?”
2. Ayman Gawi, 19 years old, eldest child in the Gawi family of Sheikh Jarrah, evicted from his home in August, protesting by living on the street since August, working at the Red Cross, attending culinary school, acting as the head of his family when his father is yet again, arrested for their protest by the racist Israeli state. What do I say that doesn’t just state the obvious points that I know he is overworked, overstressed and under more pressure than anyone I have ever met? How do I convey just how fucked up it is that his family watches random settlers walk in and out of their home while they sit, shivering in the cold, on the sidewalk?
3. Nick, 24, friend and ISM volunteer who went into full shock after being with Ellen while she was shot and accompanying her to the hospital and continues to have nightmares about the ordeal. How do I convince him that he did everything right, everything he could do, to navigate Ellen to safety through the raining tear gas canisters, military blockade of her ambulance and medical advocacy in a hospital lacking so much that the doctors used a cell phone flashlight in the surgery room?
4. Mohammad, 3, his father was killed in a car crash near their village of Al Ma’sera. His father was in the car with two others: the driver died instantly, and a French international activist who was swept away immediately in an ambulance from a nearby settlement. The Israeli ambulance refused to take his father because he was Palestinian. His father waited for thirty minutes on the side of the road until a Palestinian ambulance arrived and was further delayed by the military blockade. He died on his way to the hospital from preventable injuries. Mohammad is fully aware of the situation and has developed an intense fear of both internationals and Israelis. When he saw me, he broke out in tears and high pitched screams of fear and anger. No one could console him. I left the room.
I’ll close this overdue blog post with a poem. It conveys an image of the occupation in a way that is strong and beautiful. For this I love and hate it. I love it because Palestinians have every right to convey the unique and intense emotions of occupation in whatever way possible. I hate it because it is beautiful. There is absolutely nothing beautiful about occupation. I feel the same, two-way-dead- end-street emotion about graffiti art on the Apartheid wall.
Sometimes a people is caught in the dream of another people
Zionism is such a dream
Here the dreamer is Israel
The prisoner of the dream is the Palestinian people
Caught in the dream of the oppressor

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