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Stop the Wall Youth add Vibrant Energy to a Tradition of Steadfastness in the Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination
By Sara Mersha
January 27th, 2012
On my last program visit to the Middle East, I had a chance to spend two days with Stop the Wall Campaign (a Grassroots International partner) staff and leaders throughout the West Bank. Through all of our conversations, two distinct but complementary themes arose – steadfastness and fierce determination from farmers who had been in the struggle for decades, and creative vibrant energy from youth who have recently taken on leadership in their local committees and in the broader movement.
By Mina Remy
December 27th, 2011
Three years ago today, on December 27, 2008, the Israeli Defense Force launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The offensive left a trail of death and destruction in its wake, including hundreds dead, thousands displaced, and nearly the entire 1.5 million-person population traumatized and hungry. In the years since the bombing stopped and tanks rolled through agricultural fields, recovery has been slow.
The United Nations declared November 29 to be the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People some 63 years ago.
The first time I shared a meal with Raji Sourani was at a seaside restaurant in Gaza City. A lawyer and longtime director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a Grassroots International partner, Sourani is well known throughout Palestine for his quick and sound judgment—which showed when he ordered some of the best shellfish in the Strip for both of us before I had even finished scanning the menu.
“You can’t visit Gaza without eating this shrimp,” he said when our dish arrived. Plumes of shisha smoke billowed around us, and classical Lebanese chords interchanged with lively Egyptian tunes. He was right: the food was nearly as enjoyable as his company.
Hebron (Al-Khalil in Arabic) is home to more than 165,000 Palestinians—making it the largest city in the Palestinian West Bank. The city is famous for leather shoes, avant-garde blown-glass vases and qidreh, a fragrant dish cooked in clay pots. It is also notorious for settler violence in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. And now Hebron is becoming increasingly known for an agricultural project that sets the standards for access to food in that city and across the occupied Palestinian territories.
The elderly woman sat cross-legged atop a worn tribal carpet in the dirt, her eyes downcast and swollen from tears. Above us, a plastic tarp hanging precariously on sticks flapped loudly in the wind as she began to speak. “You need to know what happened here today,” she said in Arabic. “Today we lost everything.”
Earlier, we had set out by truck to visit some of the projects Grassroots International supports through our partner the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC). Their work includes supporting Palestinian farmers through the provision of seedlings.
Soon after shameful attacks killed six in southern Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that militants would pay “a very heavy price.” And then his warplanes proceeded to pound civilian areas with missiles. So far nine Palestinians—including two children—have been killed, and dozens injured. Retaliatory strikes have not always been limited to sought-after militants but have also affected the more vulnerable and punishable civilian population.
Ahmed Sourani, from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, a Grassroots International partner near Gaza City, said that they were getting shelled from both sides, even though it is not yet clear who was responsible for the attacks in Israel. “We are very scared about this escalation,” he admitted.
In Bir Nabala, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Israel’s separation Wall provides a concrete backdrop to what was once a view of the old city. On a stormy afternoon, Bir Nabala’s head of counsel Haj Tawfik Nabeli guided me through the ghostly streets isolated from the rest of the city by massive sections of the eight-meter high Wall that is, in Nabeli’s words, “affecting every single aspect of life.”