One month ago, on Saturday 26th Feburary 2005, I accompanied a march for the release of the prisoners. We walked along Dheisha road towards Bethlehem before stopping at the UNRWA:
"This march is very important for the prisoners' families to express themselves" confided a friend.
The friend had herself served time, as had her husband, which explains the 11 year gap between her two children. Her brother was still in prison. Khawla is not unique and the women she stands next to today and everyday, share similar stories. Husbands, uncles, brothers, sons, daughters; generation after generation Palestinian men and women are locked up for a variety of 'political' crimes. They are imprisoned often without sentence for belonging to 'illegal' political organizations, such as Hamas, or as potential 'terrorists', for the possession of weapons, or for expressing their right to freedom of travel.
Many of the 500 prisoners who were released on the previous Tuesday (22nd Feburary) had been serving time for such seemingly 'dangerous' crimes. However, they were chosen primarily because they had no 'blood on their hands', because they would be released within months or days regardless, and despite the fact that their imprisonment is in itself a human rights infringement. However, the media spin portrays it as proof that Israel is making sacrifices, that Israel is cooperating and wants peace; just as Israel is embarking upon Sharon's disengagement plan from Gaza. This, coincidently, is a disengagement plan which entails a string of economic incentives for the relocation of settlers onto the Bedouin lands in the Negev and the Palestinian populated areas in the Gaililee; from one source of tension to another; another media stunt; another public denial; another denial of justice - and as the continuing suicide bombings show, another denial of peace.
Last night four innocent Israelis died;further 'evidence' that 'the Arabs' are 'terrorists' and not partners for peace...Last week, Israeli forces shot dead two youths aged 14 and 15 in separate incidents. "One for throwing stones and the other for brandishing a knife". The Guardian reported that Palestinians questioned why it was necessary to kill rather than wound the teenagers. 'Palestinians' questioned', but which other 'peace' concerned individuals do? Which other 'democratic' countries denounce the murders; not the Israeli and not Mr Liberty and Independence.
Below are just a few thoughts which today's march provoked. Such thoughts reflect the continuing confusion of occupation amidst peace talks; amidst talks of 'solutions', 'maps', 'walls' and doubting optimism...
A sea of family photographs. You are not forgotten. Faces remembered and spoken to through these paper photographs. Displayed to strangers; "It has been many years since I have seen him... They wont let me or his father see him". It seems as if it has been years since the flesh has spoken back. The still faces are mostly men. Men of all ages; "17...29...only a boy...for 4 years...". Some with beards, some wearing a hijab. There are some still faces of women, although not many. Here in Palestine "Women's Struggle" takes on a double meaning and their collective mothers do them proud, fighting for the return of their children. Women against the occupation? Women for their families, for their sons and for daughters, for their husbands, brothers and fathers.
The microphone is monopolized by the youth. Some on shoulders of elder brothers, who use it to vent frustration, transforming it to create an explosive energy as chants rise around them; Empowerment through disempowerment; unity through separation.
Arms land upon shoulders, little legs around necks dressed in Kaffirs. Above the 'multilayers' of youth, rise rows of painted banners and colored flags. Behind ripples the sea of still faces. Framed and clutched, raised above covered heads in wrinkled hands. With a painful mixture of pride and sorrow they are held and they move slowly forward, together. Each face, both still and in the flesh, is surrounded by another broken family; by a mirror image of other women, of all ages.
An elderly lady holds her family in her hands. She directs her family towards my camera lens. "Arba" she shouts; two sons, one daughter and her husband. A little girl is excited. Names are spoken. She misunderstands and thinks they are going to bring her brother 'Fadi' home. She marches with his photo. She marches until she cries. She is tried and today is hot.
Posted by peacerider