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Those who give us hope
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestine
September 27, 2002
As the second Intifada continues, the plight of the Palestinians
grows ever more hopeless. The seemingly endless closures and
paralysing curfews imposed by the occupying forces and its government
continue to punish our entire civilian population. The economy and
the education system have been devastated, throwing hundreds of
thousands of people into poverty. Additionally, the gradual
reoccupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has created an insidious
combination of occupation and apartheid.
New settlements continue to be built on land stolen from
Palestinians, and old settlements continue to expand. Palestinians
remain unable to move freely from Palestinian town to city to
village—the Israeli policy of "Bantustanisation" of the Palestinian areas
is apparently succeeding.
On the surface little appears to have changed since the first
Intifada. Palestinians have been killed with greater frequency, and
the Israeli army has used more brutal methods and greater violence to
punish and attempt to quell our uprising against the occupation. But
this is not new.
However, there is one aspect in which this Intifada differs from the
first. It has demonstrated the amazing power of people, foreigners,
who come here to participate in the Palestinian struggle for justice
Since September 2000, approximately 3,200 people of different
nationalities have made their way to Palestine, despite the Israeli
immigration services turning scores of people away from border
crossings and the airport, and numerous deportations.
Most of these activists arrived here directly from North America,
Europe and Scandinavia, although the occasional South American and
Antipodean have also made the journey.
The fact that they have come, in such numbers and at their own
expense is, quite frankly, amazing. Even more amazing when one
considers what they have come from.
Those from the United States are coming from a country that provides
billions of dollars in support, aid and loans to Israel, and have an
administration which believes "Sharon is a man of peace!" They are
surrounded by a media that has, over the past two years, proved the
most resistant to publishing anything but the official Israeli
version of what is occurring in the occupied Palestinian territories,
in addition to using the terminology provided by the Israeli
government, without question. Yet still they learned and came.
Having a conversation with them is an eye-opening experience,
especially when discussing the reasons for coming. Whether they are
18-year-old university students from Britain, a grandmother from
France, or a 65-year-old priest from Belgium, they possess an
understanding of the conflict that goes far beyond that of their
elected representatives. The media bias felt by Palestinians
everywhere is something that they too are painfully aware of. They
have come to see what is really happening in Palestine. To see the
truth for themselves.
They also make a tremendous contribution to Palestine and the
Palestinian people because of the rest of the world's failure. The UN
in particular has failed to provide the one thing that Palestinians
have consistently called for —an international protection force.
Since the beginning of the Intifada, when Israeli troops responded to
unarmed Palestinian demonstrations with excessive and
disproportionate military force, Palestinians have called for
protection. As the two years have passed, and the Israeli onslaught
has continued, to the point that over 1,800 Palestinians have been
killed and, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more
than 41,000 have been injured, we have pleaded for international
It was not UN troops in smart uniforms who took up positions in our
villages and cities, nor was it American soldiers storming ashore, as
in Somalia. It was individuals who responded to our calls, and small
groups from trade unions and churches, anti-globalisation activists,
committees from the world social forum, Jewish and Christian groups
opposed to the occupation, governmental representatives, as well as
those belonging to Palestinian solidarity groups.
These people came, even at the risk of injury, arrest and
deportation, to stand up to the Israeli occupation, by the
Palestinians' side. They have delivered food and medicine to the sick
and hungry during curfew, torn down military road blocks, protested
the draconian Israeli siege and closure, helped get the sick and
wounded to hospitals or accompanied our medical teams to enable them
to provide badly needed treatment.
And at the height of the Israeli violence, during the March and April
invasions, they did what the Israeli army prevented the media,
international aid agencies and international community from doing.
They entered Jenin refugee camp and were witness to what occurred
there, talked to the victims, wrote, took photos and told the world.
I think these people are examples of the world's new generation
(irrespective of age), and the positive side of globalisation. News
and information is accessible to people everywhere if they make the
effort to find it. It may not be delivered to them on their doorstep
every morning, but it is accessible through the Internet. People have
learned the truth and they have come. Whether they came to break the
siege, protect children going to school, or pick olives, they have
So despite the double standards of providing UN protection to some
people and not others, and the double standards of expecting some
countries to be accountable to UN resolutions and international law
(Iraq), yet not enforcing the implementation of resolutions for other
countries (Israel), we had our protection. We turned to the people
and they responded.
Just as importantly, they have come to Palestine, met with the people
and seen for themselves what is happening. They have contributed to
the ability of Palestinians to demonstrate peacefully, as the number
of popular protests in the past few days has shown. Furthermore,
after being here for a few weeks, or months, they return to their
home countries with what they have seen, experienced and heard,
richer for the experience, and motivated to continue to work for an
These people have an amazing power that has revitalised international
solidarity for the Palestinian people. They are responsible for
making the Palestinian cause the number one liberation cause in the
world. They are the ones that give us confidence that we will be
victorious in the struggle for our freedom and independence from
continuing Israeli occupation.
The writer is spokesman for the Palestinian National Initiative, a
coalition for democratic change in the West Bank and Gaza.
From Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, September 26-October 2, 2002. © Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved.