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The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil,    but because of the people who don't do anything about it    
Occupation magazine - Activism

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Futile Friday
Greg Wilkinson--October 15, 2010--Business as usual? Weekly ritual? Sporting event? A bit of all three, but more than that. Nobody injured, nobody killed, this week. Mercifully. No ground lost or gained, but nearly 100 people walking, talking, shouting singing in the sun, behind a Palestinian flag towards a boring line of metal fence no Great Wall of Israel, just a stupid obstacle to little things like justice, peace and people`s land

What`s the message of this march? Get out, we`ve said it before and we`ll say it again. Free our prisoners, and one in particular this week. Abdullah Abu Ramah was jailed for a year three days ago. His daughter is somewhere in the crowd, with a picture of her dad. Abdullah in prison, Bassem dead...

And me, from Wales, UK, What am I doing? And the other internationals who make up a third of this week`s ritual march. And the Israelis? They`re here too, on both sides of the fence. I can only speak for myself. In1956, in Lebanon, a few months before the Suez war, I met a young Palestinian refugee. We ate up a month`s meat ration in his family`s one-room refugee-camp house, and he gave me a book called `Palestine is our Business.` True enough, I thought when I read it, then forgot it for nearly 50 years...

The last time I got a whiff of teargas was in Paris, 1968 and the formula seems to have stayed the same. That also goes for Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, here, there and everywhere. Our old terrace house in Swansea looks over the sea. Too cold for me, but my wife, who still swims in it, says `Why dont you swim where it`s warm? Red Sea, the world is my oyster, Gaza perhaps.

From Bil`in, the sea is a mirage on pale dry earth and rock, a dusty track between the olive trees, that leads on and up to...a stupid metal fence, with a yellow gate. Presumed locked. A man with a Palestinian flag goes up to and shouts to the soldiers in Hebrew. What`s he saying, something about land and freedom or `Go home, enjoy yourself, do something useful`? Some boys come up to the wire, and an old photographer. I get my moment too. I try a bit of a song I remember, changed a bit Free, free, free Abdullah..(as in Free, free Nelson Mandela,Youtube, Special AKA), and `Shame, shame Israel, jail your own war criminals.`

Not many soldiers to hear us, just a faceless foursome against the sun, and a few more in wait further up the hill. `They`re the ones to watch,` says a tall Israeli in a red hat. When the first teargas shell is fired, it lands near us but the gas blows back towards the soldiers. Next the first stones, flying in the other direction like hungry sparrows. It takes the soldiers time to find their range while the kids shebab fan out among the olive trees. Big bouncy teargas shells, like fat black onions, set light to the weeds among the olive trees, and smaller ones rain down from high in the air, meteorites with give-away tails. The greywhite smoke drifts down across the track, so we can all get a taste. Some cameramen, or women, have masks, as has a man in a wheelchair. Another, on crutches, has no mask but a black Che Guevara beard.

Then the soldiers open the gate and four musketeers charge down the hill towards us. The tall Israeli says `We should have locked the gate from this side.` The crowd and gas disperse, the shebab escape among the olive trees. A boy breaks off a branch to beat out flames. Scorched earth and big black tasteless onions.

Honour satisfied, soldiers and the crowd go their ways, to lunch perhaps. Another day, another no-win not-quite-waste of time. Soon this bit of fence will be removed, and a stretch of Bil`in land beyond will be released, become workable again. Not all their land but an area between today`s stupid fence and a solider, stupider new concrete wall. A small legal victory, except that the Supreme Court first ordered the fence to be moved back then legitimised the settlement behind it.

Win some, lose some. BUT, as one of the committee-members said, `We`ve shown that Palestinians, Israelis, internationals CAN work together. And when the soldiers open fire, everyone can see who are the terrorists.
`This is the message our Popular Committees must get across. Bi`lin, Ni`ilin, Budrus, Ma`asara... It is difficult, but we can organise ourselves. We need the people, we need the parties, and we think that they need us.`

As I watched those Bil`in boys with their slingshots, how near-accurate they were, I could almost believe the story of David and Goliath. And it must help to practice every week.
[dn]
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