Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Taking a Look At Home

I remember well ten years ago, when my father grabbed my hand and drove for two hours from Amman, Jordan and took us to a mountain near the Palestinian- Jordanian boarders. He pointed towards the lake and said "This is Tabarias", then pointed to the left and said "And this is Palestine". Ever-since, the picture of that land fading as the sun has been engraved in my memory. That was the closest I could get to 'home', 10 kilometers.

I am not the story here, my people and my land are.

Last night, 'aljazeera' aired an interview with Ahmed, 12 years old, who was arrested and tortured by the Israelis for throwing a rock at an Israeli military Jeep. Ahmed's story is one of many that are supposed to grab the attention of the whole world to the ethnic cleansing that Jerusalem is undergoing, as the Israeli government attempts to keep the demographic majority of the city Jewish. Each day, there's a house that is demolished, family that is harassed, history that is stolen, therefore people are urged to leave the city, and leave everything they fought for behind.

It all starts with demolition of Palestinian homes. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) documented that since 1967, 24.145 homes has been demolished in the West Bank, and Gaza. 3,753 orders for demolition in East Jerusalem were issued between 2004 and 2008. After all they are humans who have limits for their tolerance, not to defend them rather to find some sort of excuse for them to leave. "It's a transferring policy, it is like when you are thirsty and I give you a cup of water, and I tell you that it's yours, but you can't drink from it" Salim Shawamreh, a Palestinian activist in ICAHD says. Shawamreh's house in East Jerusalem has been demolished 4 times for lack of permit. Administrative Demolition is a common type of demolition, in which a building lacks a permit which is hard-or even impossible- to obtain. Therefore, buildings are considered illegal and are ordered to be destructed. Demolition is not a new technique to pressure Palestinians. In 1971, Israeli troops invaded the village of Il Nabi Ismael "Prophet Samuel", north Jerusalem, and destroyed all homes surrounding the mosque. Now there are around

There are many residents of several villages near Jerusalem that suffer different means of harassments other than house demolition. Minors are taken continuously from their beds and homes in the middle of the night. B'Tselem reported that Israeli Officers along with security intelligence agents and armed police men used to cuff under-aged Palestinians and interrogate them in the Police station. Usually those kids, who are between 12-15 years old, are suspected of stone throwing. Many of them are kept in detention for more than a week. Based on testimonies given to B'Tselem, Palestinian children are beaten and threatened during the questioning. Ahmed, who was mentioned at the beginning of this article, says that he was cuffed and put into detention, as he was persecuted for throwing stones at a military Jeep.

Israel Tries it's best to erase the Arab identity of Jerusalem, as the Israeli Government is recently including Islamic and Christian sites to the 'Jewish' sites of its own. Days ago, the government added one of the ancient mosques, Bilal ibn Rabah, to its list of Jewish sites. Other than including the sites, they also try to destruct the major ones, as the case with Al- Aqsa mosque, which is endangered to collapse between a second and another.

Ever-since the six-day-war, Hebrew names have been added to the signs and direction around and all over Jerusalem. The Arabic names were illuminated and replaced by the Hebrew names only written in Arabic. All these 'minor' actions are some sort of an attempt to illuminate the Arab identity from the city.

If my family members are harassed, my home is demolished, my worship house is inaccessible, and language seems to be broken, why would I stay? Still, my family members are those prophets who pray each and every day in the invaded churches and mosques, my 'home' is that illegal tent next to the golden dome rather than castles in any other country in the world, my language is what keeps me saying " Tahya Falasteen", long live Palestine, but until I go back there and be the one who resists, I shall salute those who refuse to go out, who refuse to obey , and refuse to deny the right they have behind the walls of that city. You shouldn't get a license for your own land.

Grave Number ...?

Israel hasn't only been harassing living Palestinians by making living for them in their land hard intolerable, but it also innovated a way to irritate both living and dead Palestinians. One of the major human rights violations that Israel has committed is the 'Numbers Cemeteries'. Numbers Cemeteries hold the bodies of Palestinians who were killed by the Israeli forces, or who died in Israeli prisons. These cemeteries do not have head stones or names, they only hold reference numbers that only Israel knows about, and got access to.

'Em Mahmoud' has lost her son in a military operation, after which his body was taken by the Israeli militants and graved in one of the numbers cemeteries. She describes how hard it is to know that his body is somewhere but she didn't get the chance to kiss his head as usually done. Ibrahim Masoud, who also lost a son by the Israeli operations described his feelings and said that this kind of inhumane action makes him feel that he's been tortured twice, once for losing his son and the other when he is robbed the right to take a last look at his son's body.

Last month, We have Names and We Have a Homeland was published by the JLAC (Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center). This book is supposed to include all the names of Palestinian prisoners who are suspected to be dead and martyrs whose bodied are in numbers cemeteries. JLAC also holds a lot of activities concerning Palestinians' sufferings from Israel's violations, especially in human rights field. JLAC tries its best to provide help for Palestinian families to return their beloveds' bodies. Another question is raised about the reason Israel wants to keep these bodies under its control-other than psychologically abusing Palestinian families- as Israel has been accused for organ harvesting. Arab- Israeli Knesset member, Mohammed Barakeh argues with the Israeli government to give back the bodies to the Palestinian authorities. Barakeh also says that this type of action, even if to dead bodies, is considered a human rights violation, and Israel should be punished by the whole world for hiding such an issue from the international media.

These cemeteries occurred with the Lebanese civil war, when the IDF committed many war crimes, and needed to hide them. Back then, those cemeteries included Lebanese civilians as well as Palestinian refugees. Until now, only four of these cemeteries are known to exist; Banat Yacoub- on the borders of Lebanon, Syria, and Israel-between Jericho and Damieh bridge- on the Jordanian Israeli borders- Refedim –Jordan- and Sh-heita- North Israel, next to the Sea of Galilee. One of the major figures of the resistance who are suspected to be in one of those cemeteries is Dalal Al Mughrabi, whose body hasn't been exchanged in the Hizbullah- Israel exchange of dead bodies and prisoners.

It is a shame that we are reaching a point where we are to accept the fact that we are being persecuted and killed each and every day, and argue whether our dead bodies should be treated respectfully, as any religion implies, or not. It's a shame that the world will always hear of human rights violations in the whole world, except in the land we belong to. It's such a shame that these cemeteries are kilometers away, but we chose not to know about them. It's a disgrace that a mother is somewhere in this 21 century world, is not asking for her son back, but for his body. Is this the bottom we waited to hit?
Roqayah Tbeileh