brev fra dræbt fredsvagt

Rachel Corrie, Gush Shalom

Excerpts from an e-mail from Rachel on February 7, 2003.

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have

very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think

about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United

States–something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if

many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in

their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them

constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure,

that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like

this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank

two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to

me, “Ali”–or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also

love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me “Kaif Sharon?”

“Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say “Bush Majnoon” “Sharon

Majnoon” back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush?

Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I

believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: Bush

mish Majnoon… Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say

“Bush is a tool”, but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway,

there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the

global power structure than I was just a few years ago–at least regarding

Israel.

Nevertheless, I think about the fact that no amount of reading,

attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth

could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just

can’t imagine it unless you see it, and even then you are always well

aware that your experience is not at all the reality: what with the

difficulties the Israeli Army would face if they shot an unarmed US

citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army

destroys wells, and, of course, the fact that I have the option of leaving.

Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket

launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I

have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still

quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial

(this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others).

When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will

not be a heavily armed soldier waiting half way between Mud Bay and

downtown Olympia at a checkpoint-a soldier with the power to decide

whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again

when I’m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and

incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder

conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.

They know that children in the United States don’t usually have their

parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But

once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is

taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you

have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your

home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once

you’ve met people who have never lost anyone– once you have

experienced the reality of a world that isn’t surrounded by murderous

towers, tanks, armed “settlements” and now a giant metal wall, I wonder

if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent

existing–just existing–in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the

world’s fourth largest military–backed by the world’s only superpower–in

it’s attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder

about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew.

As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah, a city of about

140,000 people, approximately 60 percent of whom are refugees–many

of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948,

but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people

who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine–now

Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.

Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between

Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the

houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been

completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee

Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is

greater.

Today as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood,

Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, “Go!

Go!” because a tank was coming. Followed by waving and “what’s your

name?”. There is something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It

reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious

about other kids: Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering

into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they

peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids

standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks

anonymously, occasionally shouting– and also occasionally waving–

many forced to be here, many just aggressive, shooting into the houses

as we wander away.

In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the

western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are

more IDF towers here than I can count–along the horizon,at the end of

streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral

staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within

anonymous. Some hidden,just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new

one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to

cross town twice to hang banners. Despite the fact that some of the

areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have

lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the

center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo. But as far

as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of

some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to

apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing

over the city for hours at a time.

I’ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but

I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of

concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza.” Gaza is reoccupied

every day to various extents, but I think the fear is that the tanks will

enter all the streets and remain here, instead of entering some of the

streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and

shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already

thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire

region then I hope they will start.

I also hope you’ll come here. We’ve been wavering between five and six

internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of

presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and

Block O. There is also need for constant night-time presence at a well

on the outskirts of Rafah since the Israeli army destroyed the two

largest wells. According to the municipal water office the wells

destroyed last week provided half of Rafah’s water supply. Many of the

communities have requested internationals to be present at night to

attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it

is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in

the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.

I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a

lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-

community relationship. Some teachers and children’s groups have

expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the

iceberg of solidarity work that might be done. Many people want their

voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as

internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than

through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just

beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage,

about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist

against all odds.

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