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Intifada – On the Road to Palestine

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(COMMENTARY) "Let there be peace among men on earth.”

An olive grove at the foot of Bethlehem. As ancient as this message. It was under olive trees that Judaic peasants and shepherds rested when they heard the glad tidings.

Intifada, insurrection, revolt.

An insurgent people's movement relying on nothing but their fists, hearts and senses. A people without arms encircled by a world armed to the teeth. Who knows the names of the victims, who counts the injured.

I read the chronicle of the week: 70 olive trees destroyed – in retaliation for stones thrown. Shops raided and goods confiscated – retaliation for taxes boycotted. 200 acres of land seized. 5 adolescents arrested. 13 Palestinians expelled from their country. Electric power cut off. A 40 year-old father of 8 children shot in the head and killed.

Reading this I realize that being Palestinian is a perilous affair.

(THE MOTHER OF THE KILLED BOY) It was an underhanded assault. My son was murdered with a stone. The day had actually been a quiet one. For 11 days the occupation forces had imposed a curfew on the whole village. No-one was allowed outside, not even to go shopping. The day before everyone had been on general strike.

He had gone to the market with his brother to buy bread. On Salah Street, where an armed sentry was posted on the roof of a 5-storey house, there were no demonstrations or anything. Everything was quiet.

Suddenly a stone hit his head, falling from the spot where the armed guard was. His brother looked up and saw a soldier. They purposely meant to kill someone from our village because we had all handed back the identity cards issued by Israel. We paid no more taxes and were on general strike. In revenge they wanted to kill someone. It hit my son Edmont.

(THE FATHER OF THE KILLED BOY) They took revenge on my son Edmont. They wanted to take revenge for the Intifada.

(COMMENTARY) The Military Governor offered the mother a large sum of hush money. In vain. People here no longer keep silent. United they call for justice.

Rich or poor, landed proprietor or day labourer, the differences have been forgotten.

Man or woman, it no longer matters to which sex one belongs.

Old or young, parents follow their children.

I look into the faces and I see that all their boats have been burnt behind them. 20 years of humiliation banished by new pride and new self-confidence. Increasingly monotonous is the answer they receive from the occupation forces: shooting and gas attacks.

The victims are children, elderly people.

(A HALF-CRIPPLED ASTHMATIC TESTIFIES) I came from this entrance. The gas shell fell here. I began to feel very giddy. I was afraid to fall into this pit here. I stepped forward, my head was spinning. I used my stick for guidance, like this and this. It was a gas shell like this one. I felt so giddy, so awfully giddy, I was gasping for breath.

(A RETIRED HEADMASTER) They believe when the children meet at school they will cause more trouble and riots. They think if the children stay at home and remain separated, things might calm down. But the effects this has on the children are terrible. They have already lost one year of school and it looks like they will lose another. It appears to me that the people here, I mean the authorities, try to use schools as a lever to put pressure on the people in order to stop the rebellion, the Intifada. When the students arrive at school, the building is surrounded by soldiers. All the streets are blocked, soldiers are standing there staring at the children as if they meant to irritate them and make them uneasy. And of course the children react and become upset. After all, they are children. When they are shot at, some of them are killed, some are wounded, but nevertheless they keep on practicing as if it were a game. Especially when those soldiers – well equipped with gun, baton and shield, run clumsily after the children, it looks amusing to them...

(INTERVIEWER) But it is extremely dangerous for the children!

(RETIRED HEADMASTER) Extremely dangerous! And they are aware of it. Yesterday, for example, more than 20 were wounded, maybe even 30. And almost every day, every day, one or two children drop dead. In Nablus, 5 were suddenly dead, and of those wounded, another 3 died later on. On one day!

(INTERVIEWER) But isn't that a David-and-Goliath game?

(RETIRED HEADMASTER) David and Goliath, that's right, David and Goliath. And what is it supposed to mean, that soldiers may shoot if their lives are endangered? Can such a child with such a small stone really endanger the life of such a big, armoured soldier?

(COMMENTARY) Everyone in the village called him the whirlwind. Yayia is 14 years old. He will never again be able to walk normally. A rubber missile lacerated his leg. His foot will remain paralyzed. He doesn't know that yet.

In the Jerusalem Post an Israeli reporter writes: "X-ray pictures prove that the metal-and-rubber missiles penetrate several centimetres into the flesh. The soldier's believe that the use of their weapons is not fatal and therefore use them all the more ruthlessly. Today the soldiers shoot at every group of children if one of them is holding a stone."

20 years of foreign rule, another 20 years of occupation by Israel. The remains of the former Jordanian police station crunch under my feet.

The old order has been destroyed. And with the honourable old men who for decades had come to terms with alternating occupation forces, have lost their power. The established state order they used to rely on no longer exists. The only fact that now counts is the omnipresence the military forces.

Never before has time been so ripe for a new beginning as now. There is no alternative to the self-determination of a people. The young generation of Palestinians have nothing left to lose except for their limbs and their lives. This is what they demonstrate every day anew.

The scene of a boy being arrested

(SOLDIER) "Stop, stay where you are and don't move! Don't you move, I tell you!"

(WOMAN) "What do you want? We don't get it. He didn't do anything!"

(SOLDIER) "Keep quiet and shut up!"

(WOMAN) "Do you mean me? Shut up! Why should I? This here is his house. He only went to market. By God, this is his house! Why should I keep quiet? This is his house, right next to the market. Please come and take a look at it! Here is my key, you'd better lock up our door. Come here and take a look at his house. No-one sets his own house on fire. Do you believe in God? By the Ten Commandments, we aren't telling lies; he didn't throw any stone. Let him go! Is it forbidden to stand in front of one's own house? His house is here and he didn't throw stones!"

(SOLDIER) "How do you know that he didn't throw a stone? He came from there and he was throwing something."

(WOMAN) "No he wasn't. Here is my house, I am his neighbour and I can see everything from here. And that is his house. By the life of God, he didn't throw anything. He has never throw a stone in his life!"

(SOLDIER) "Get going, go home!"

(A VERY OLD PEASANT) Already the Turks used to come and get our youngsters and take them away to the army. Some, very few, were able to redeem themselves by paying the required 50 gold lira to the Turks.

During the time of the Osman rule the women had to carry all heavy goods because people were too poor to keep pack animals. Coming from as far as Jordan, women carried practically all heavy goods on their backs, wheat, rye and so on, so that they would be able to feed their children. Most people were suffering from hunger, many were near starvation. All the way to Maadeba in Eastern Jordan they had to walk. Israel doesn't want to have Arabs around here any more, not even the slightest trace of an Arab. That is why they occupy our land. I want Israel to leave. We want a Palestinian state.

This here is the land of Messias. He was born right here, my son!

(COMMENTARY) An ancient soil, rich farmland as far back as human memory can recall. And ever since it has been the object of economic and strategic craving. It wasn't desert I found there, but fertile soil, inhabited by a patient stock of peasants. The cultivated land provides for them as long as foreign occupants do not cheat them out of its produce.

It is still alive, the tradition of mutual support within the community. I witnessed compelling demonstrations of this during my visit, The whole village has come to see Rifad, who has just been dismissed from the Ansar prisoners' camp. He had been charged with instigation and a call for tax boycott.

(RIFAD) Ansar was officially established for the purpose of collecting as many Palestinian prisoners as possible in one place in order to quench the insurrection. The real aim however is to shatter the personality of each and every prisoner. So that he submits and abandons all thoughts of resistance against the occupation forces. And changes his mind so that in future the Palestine problem ceases to exist. That is why they have created a number of conditions within the Ansar prison camp all aimed at shattering each individual personality. First of all the prisoners suffer under the climatic conditions. In summer the area is unbearably hot, in winter freezing cold. The camp is situated in the middle of the desert. Secondly the camp is teeming with military guards. They let you feel unrelentingly that the State of Israel, armed to the teeth, holds absolute control. Against this armed superior force you stand no chance of fighting against Israel and establishing a Palestinian state. This state is determined to demonstrate daily its ability to force you into submission.

Thirdly there is the situation of complete isolation, neglecting, in which the prisoners live there. They are separated from their families, in the middle of the desert, without visiting permits for friends and relatives. Without connections outside.

Newspapers, radios, television were all forbidden. In the meantime, some outdated newspapers reach the camp. The prisoners are completely cut off from the outside world.

(COMMENTARY) I realize: Intifada also means waiting, having patience, the art of taking small steps. Tenacity. And apart from that: Fathers now follow sons. The patriarchal concept of life is beginning to crumble at the edges.

A concealed joinery. The betraying screech of the saw can be heard outside in the streets. Since the beginning of the Intifada the owner has refused to pay taxes to the occupation forces. Non-payment of taxes is one of the most important boycott measures against the Israeli occupants.

Larger workshops are exempted from the boycott. They would soon run out of raw materials, most of which come from Israel. The joinery draws no material advantages from the boycott. On the contrary: sales have decreased by 30 – 40%. Where 10 people used to work, 3 have remained. Formerly the joiner delivered his fitted kitchens all the way to Israel. Today he follows his goods secretly by bus so as to avoid arrest by a street patrol.

The windows and doors of his house remain tightly shut to protect him from intruding glances. Impending arrest is a daily menace.

By demanding excessive taxes the occupation forces are trying to economically force the inhabitants down to their knees. Consequently this pharmacist has decided to join the tax strike.

(THE PHARMACIST) With the help of the army the tax investigators ransacked the pharmacy. They confiscated goods worth 1000 dinars. But that didn't satisfy them. They raided my house, confiscated the TV set and the car, and they left the rooms in a state of havoc, which was particularly terrifying for my 2 year-old daughter. The car was worth 2 500 dinars, the TV set 500. The tax arrears had only amounted to 300 dinars. In addition they put me in prison for 4 days. And they imprisoned a colleague of mine for 10 days.

For the taxes collected we receive nothing in return. Neither public nor social services, no insurances, nothing at all. Apart from that, according to a resolution by the United Nations, it is illegal to collect taxes from an occupied area.

(COMMENTARY) The allied leadership of the insurrection movement has called a boycott of products from Israel because, next to the USA, the occupied territories are Israel's main export destination. All of a sudden vegetable gardens are cropping up everywhere. Before the Intifada, self-support was generally looked down on as a sign of poverty. Being able to afford products from Israel was considered an indication of a living standard. Today, self-supply has become a common task disdained by no-one. There are poultry and rabbit stables next to almost every house in the towns and villages again. But keeping poultry is now considered a subversive act by the Israelis. Organizers of self-supply run the risk of being confined. Yussuf, a former teacher, was forced into compulsory retirement by the Israelis. He has built two sheds in which he keeps goats and sheep. He offers his milk and meat products at the producer's price directly to his neighbours. To avoid the intermediate trade market controlled by Israel, more and more peasants are co-operating in direct sale.

Israel is alarmed. It has forbidden its farmers to sell cattle to the occupied territories.

Woman of the Intifada. Their appearance in the revolt is not glamorous. That is rendered impossible by their traditional role in an Arab society. But the impression these pictures create is deceptive. This indeed is not a housewives' needlework class, but one of the most effective basic organizations of the Intifada. A "grass roots movement", as the women call it. Generally, their activities are known as the "womens' action committees". They were popular in almost all the towns and rural districts even before the Intifada began.

Their programme tells me they defend womens' rights to equal pay for equal work and the right to stand up for their cultural and social recognition. Here they are sewing childrens' garments as an act of boycott against products from Israel. Their struggle against the occupation forces is a milestone on the long march to equality.

I receive permission to take a look at the secret logistics of the insurrection.

(THE MANAGER OF THE GRANARY) The Intifada has taught us to store our food supplies, particularly the durable goods, in our own hidden lofts. Such as this wheat for example. We store and grind the grain and then distribute the flour to families in need within the district. In case of a curfew, a general strike or some measures enforced by the occupation forces, this supply will last for some time to feed the district. In such cases flour is passed on from house to house under the surveillance of young members of the Intifada and distributed to all inhabitants.

(COMMENTARY) A clandestine Intifada project. In a hidden spot more than 50 cows are being kept. They now supply the neighbouring district with milk products.

A large number of injured people need medical treatment. But even the surgeries have to be camouflaged.

(THE DOCTOR) I would like to show you our clinic. We are really proud of it. Our clinic is big, clean and of European style, I would say. But if it were to be filmed, the danger would be, we would risk having this clinic closed down by Israelis authorities with the argument that it is an Intifada clinic. They could even be right, because this clinic was established during the Intifada. Israelis secret police are always hanging around asking the patients where they have been, how much they paid and why they come here instead of going elsewhere.

At present we don't want to run the risk of having the clinic closed down. For the same reason I don't want to show my face either. Not so much because I'm afraid to spend 6 months in prison, but rather because this might endanger the clinic.

(COMMENTARY) 'Before you can beat the enemy, you have to find it' – a trivial but fundamental principle of military combat against insurgents. But the enemy is vigilant everywhere, for the enemy is the people.

I was searching for the political leadership of this insurrection and to my surprise I found it right next door. All Intifada activities are initiated on a local level. The "national executive of the rebellion", the phantom Israel is chasing in vain, is nothing but the national political articulation to the popular movement. To this day wide sections of the population are not organized in political groups and yet they are active: in urban district committees, in vigilance committees, education committees, traders' committees, supply committees.

This is where the prospect of a future Palestinian state becomes apparent. A state established by the struggle of the people who today are already creating its future structure. A future political executive will not find it easy to disregard the people's interests.

Among the oldest and most successful basic organizations are the medical aid committees. Their work is acknowledged to such an extent that they can work openly. The doctors themselves go out to the villages where the medical care the inhabitants receive from the occupation forces is very poor. The concept is preventive medical care in co-operation with the people, not only relieving acute emergencies but at the same time laying the foundations for a future medical care network. The blood test campaign for example will also help to solve the blood donation problem for 10 years to come.

Any attempt to suppress the rebellion by unleashing total military power would result in an enormous massacre.

How long will it take until Israel heeds the call for peaceful co-existence? The Palestinians do not share my uncertainty whether or not such a pocket-size state would be able to survive economically without influence from the outside:

(A POLITICAL SPEAKER) Ten thousands of our citizens live in Amman, in the Gulf region in Saudi-Arabia, in America and in Europe. They have substantial financial resources, follow trades and technical careers and are qualified. Together with them we can establish a strong and independent economy by our own efforts. It is true that so far no big factories exist in our country. But we are prepared and we are able to establish all that. It is also true that even Israel started on a very weak economic foundation. It was a purely agrarian country. It took time to develop into a strong economic power. Israel's first step was to enforce a renewal process of the economic development and this enable it to become export-oriented.”

(COMMENTARY) "Let there be peace on earth.” Does the message stand a chance in the land of this origin? Whatever the answer – the time of humility is over. Intifada will take its way.