Talk on Palestine in Zaragoza

A lot of emails and phonecalls are needed to arrange a talk in another city. My friend J.M. had a visit to pay in Zaragoza and we were arranging to go there together. But now there is so much snow he has cancelled the visit. I can not, or I do not want to cancel this. I may get stranded somewhere in the middle of the railway. But I have to try to get there on the day we have scheduled because if I do not, then the chance will be gone. Maybe another year. But I can always try another year, I feel the need to make this one happen this time.

I have never seen so much snow over so many kilometres. It is so lucky the train was not cancelled. Some one, some people, has had to work for hours to clear the rails of all that snow that I can now see by the sides.

The talk is scheduled for seven in the evening in the Centro Social Autogestionado (Self-Managed Social Centre). It is not occupied, not a squat. I learn that it is rented and that the volunteers working here pay a monthly contribution for the rent. And I am amazed at the commitment. I do not think this would be possible in London. Not only because the rents there are what they are… Maybe yes. I guess if you are living with your parents and you do not need to pay rent for your bedroom you can spare some money to contribute to your social centre. If you live in a room that takes out three quarters of your salary, with work and renting contracts that hardly contemplate a weeks notice, the spare money is reserved for the next move and deposit. But at least squatting is not a criminal offence and some people are prepared to live in squats; the rest of us are prepared to contribute our volunteering time to squatted social centres. But the personal generosity of all these people still amazes me.

The social centre has two spaces. What you see first is the open space with desks and chairs and computers. A bit like the hacklab in Rampart. At the end, in what may have been the back of the shop, is a more quiet area. The library. People buzz around, I am the visit of the day and the room has been booked for my talk. The hackers try to make my video camera ‘talk’ to the Linux computers. They are talking in Spanish but I hardly understand them. Yes, an issue for a whole other talk. How corporate hardware does not talk well to free software. Other people set up the chairs in a circle, moving some tables to the side.

My talk consists of the projector showing some of the pictures I took in Palestine and then me talking. The wonderful propaganda activities of this collective have brought about twenty people to listen to me. As the talk progresses, a few people leave, some more arrive. As I present some of the situations, some put their elbows on their knees and their head in their hands. Some close their eyes and shake their heads. Some even cry.

Andrew

This text came on Christmas Day, from David, who has been writing his experiences to his friends and family and, lately, to me, too. This page talks about himself and his own deportation:
http://www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/01/19/iof-evacuated-human-rights-workers-instead-of-illegal-settlers /

Telling it

Back in Europe, it’s Christmas time, so it is not quite going back to normal. Not just yet. In one hand, it is Christmas time. Lights in the streets, jolly and empty music. So, even if Palestine had not happened, this would still be that time of year where routine breaks to make it all family and all special. In the other hand, I am eager to tell as many people as possible about what I have seen and heard in Palestine. Part of my family listens, and then there are comments like “So out of the whole world to go on holiday, you had to go to a war zone?” “yeah they want independence, just like here” “well we probably don’t see as many tanks in the streets as they see there”. Besides, they all have their own stories to tell.

I am giving talks in two towns near me, as well as in my own, and in two distant cities. My story gets told in two radio stations. In one, where I can not go, they simply read a whole entry of my blog. Just like that. To the other one, I go with my parents. They get to see a radio station in the inside, and they get to listen to my experience for an hour. Without the comments from other family members. I had eight weeks of shocks in small doses, they have received a two hour summary all at once. We go back home in silence. Back to the chasm of the Christmas preparations.

Epilogue or worthless rant

When I came, I did not know too well what I had come here for. But that is not the most important thing. I have been with people who know only too well what they need us for. And they have put us, they have put me, in the places where I was needed, telling me, more or less, on occasions exactly, what needed to be done.

Priests and privileges

I need to spend a few more days more in Jerusalem. Which doesn’t qualify as time in Palestine, because as I mentioned in this previous post, Jerusalem is no longer considered Palestine by any one who lives there, despite the ‘efforts’ by the ‘international community’ in making it a shared city between two countries … of which only one exists.

As instructed, I spend a whole day resting, gathering my thoughts, and above all, getting ride of papers with names and addresses on them. Details of what I have actually been doing. Because, for the Israeli authorities, who will – or not – allow me out of the country tomorrow, what I have been doing constitutes helping terrorists.

I go to mass in the church I went to when I was first in Jerusalem (Palestine. Arrival) and talk to the Spanish priest again. I need to pick up a bag I had left in his place so I could travel a bit more lightly.

He invites me for lunch, in the parish house. The other priests are curious about what I have been doing. There is one from America, who remarks on the possibility that my bag would have contained something illegal. Like a bomb. The Spanish and I make jokes about it, but he looks at us with distrusting eyes, probably thinking “two Basque people in Palestine. It can’t be a good thing”.

They all ask me questions about what I have seen, comparing it to what they have seen in the past themselves, and the American says at the end:
“If the Arabs got in power, they would probably do the same as the Israelis are doing now.”
“And then I would have come for them instead of for the Arabs”
“You have only known them for a couple of months.”
“What I have seen is that they are being deprived of their dignity. Humiliated every time they come in mere sight of any Israeli soldier or settler. I know that doesn’t make them good people necessarily. It makes them people in need and it’s within my Christian belief that I should use my privilege the way I have been using it to help.”

By privilege I mean this:

“All of us, who have been to war and occupation zones as ‘human rights monitors’, ‘human shields’, ‘solidarity activists’ or what have you, from Palestine to Iraq, from India to Kosovo, from checkpoints to refugee camps, from border actions to deportation centers; we have to admit that we hold the answer to why our blood is deemed more valuable than that of the millions facing the war and capitalism machines indiscriminately. Our white skin, or affiliations with white Northern governments, is our passport to be worthy of living, or at least creates a fear of global dissent. A world that is as racist as the governments themselves.”

Qursana
http://qursana.blogspot.com/

Kawawis-Jerusalem. News from Jayyous

I wake up to find myself on my own, so I just get up and eat some of the food I brought with me as breakfast. I hear the sound of an engine and go to see what it is. Two men, one on foot and another one on a tractor, are spreading seeds on the fields around the village.

Kawawis III. The journalist

I receive a call saying that E., an Israeli activist who comes here regularly to get information about incidents that need to be reported, will be coming today for a visit. It will be a change I look forward to: I will finally have a conversation in English, after two days of speaking a word at a time and trying to make sense of people’s gestures.

Kawawis II. The visit

Today is a visit day. A lot of grandchildren of H.’s mother come to see her. They had to come walking down the path that the taxi took me from, crossing the road that functions as a wall.

Kawawis I. USAID

At eight in the morning the sun gets through the glassless windows in full swing into the room, where there are only two people now. The couple seem to have got up already; their mattress is no longer there. Their grandson is gone too. I remember then what I read yesterday in the log book, that they go to walk the sheep at about six in the morning.

Hebron – Kawawis

Today is my last day here and as a good bye to the house where we stay I do a “tour” around it. It is a neighbours’ building and the most interesting part of it is the flat roof. The drums containing the water that is supplied to all the block neighbours are kept here.