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Ramallah, July 20 and 21


“Through birth, life, death, burial, the means are provided, nothing is scanted,
Through anger, losses, ambition, ignorance, ennui, what you are picks its way.”
-Walt Whitman

Last night and this morning in Ramallah, the center of finance, street strolling, seeming opportunity, the weak but halting wall of the Palestinian Authority, accused widespread apathy and normalization, accused antithesis of self-determination, the great citizens of Palestine took to the street like the doors of the ground had opened. If it was a response to the earlier evening’s attempted march to the Israeli Beit El settlement and military base which stands like a mocking citadel over their municipality, then understood. It was, at it’s painful heart, a family gathering for Gaza.

In the last week, solidarity marches around the town were frightening even to an American citizen; no more than forty people, shuffling down main Rukab Street, desperate hoarse howls of college kids, Ramallahite sidewalk folk staring, chuckling, glaring down at their phones. These were the Gaza protests in Ramallah.

When the Palestinian Authority police lifted their canes and fired tear gas canisters at the smaller crowd attempting to break their riot-gear wall around 11:00 last night, hundreds stampeded from their cell phone messages down and up the main boulevard which stretches from Ramallah to the biggest Palestinian flag that exists as a final message before advancing to Beit El. My friends around me, waiters and chefs, were impassioned.

“They are like the Israeli soldiers, there is no difference!” They gesticulated with hands.

“These people eat their katayef and just stare at us!” They motioned to amused gawkers on the street.

A young shabab, perhaps physically and vocally no older than sixteen, but difficult to tell because of the sacred and familiar street protector’s garb–white tank, white jeans, a kuffiyeh wrapped tight around his chin and forehead– conveyed in friendly, precise baritone with also just his eyes: people do not want to be killed here. The police do not want us to be killed by the Israelis. That is why they make the human wall.

Minutes later, the young man picked up a stone and hurled it at the Palestinian police. “Let me go to Beit El!”, the hurl perhaps demanded, among a lifetime of other things. Then came the gas, the retreat, the gas fired at the retreat.

Then back to downtown Ramallah, which if you didn’t have a city map, fireworks in the sky were the meeting point. The triumphant return and remain: hundreds, maybe one thousand, shimmying up poles, standing next to carved lions, smiling, children suddenly with face paint. A young, immensely handsome man bursting into tears, which I witnessed from smile to burst, clean front to back. Music, cracking microphones, the bounty of pink and green explosions. Women I know, vendors I love because they’re there every day. An Israeli soldier had been won in Gaza.

The center of the world; it certainly must not be the place that we muse about, pontificate over, assume from afar ridiculous notions of what “freedom” is. When we consider free, we consider ourselves always and our intellect often because we think we deserve to posit, but in Palestine, nobody needs to posit the positioning of their oppression, because it exists out of unending sorrow,  and it also doesn’t exist out of unending joy; it is an incomprehensible, stunning polar scale. The most free and pulsating nucleus must, must be the place where a happy and anguished brutalized millions are surrounded by a squeezing cancer, which like all colonial tumors causes sickness, fatigue, shrugging acceptance, rage at the lottery of life, a medicinal and mental contra battle, an unrelenting bear hug to time, energy, and those around them. Their freedom is their homeland, but also one soldier captured for every thousand of their community murdered, as the ratio seems to go.

Those who have notions instead of experience, newspaper readers, say: God, the conflict has been going on for so long! As if the struggle for freedom is a dog which will eventually be taken back behind the shed. The tablet is switched off, the car is switched on, the box of life has walls, and it also has a flap up top. Indeed, geographical placement does not aid in truth shifts either, because what the most liberal Israelis fifteen miles away wrapped in kuffiyehs don’t know because of fear of a trespassing ticket is that when gut-wrenching brutality like Shaja’iyah occur, Palestinians mourn in Ramallah with firings of freedom. They took a soldier; independence day for one night. When turning points for the world story like 1948 occur, insane dispossession births a particular freedom which is like a forever-child, innocent and boundless, inculpable but to those with the idea that law is predictable and plodding, a decree from the white above instead of from the mud below. The freest people in the world are at the center of it, where nobody but themselves really knows just how free they are.

In one night, simple and familiar because the sun was down, but undeniably the point of comparison for the world, Ramallah–thereby Palestine–did not serve anyone with a message or grand statement, but remained the untainted nucleus entangled, but not inter larded with, a cancer treated with increased bouts of radiation (that would be Israel), and then the wrap of the whole world which cannot ever seem to iron out what “freedom” and “justice” really are, spinning around Palestine clumsily. There is a secret about Palestinians which the outsiders who live amongst them carry, which many who are enabled to continue living through their own perceptions may never realize even when it’s fully realized: they are not going anywhere.

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7 Responses

  1. Justpassingby on July 21, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Other than that they are very silent, seems to back Al-Sisi before Hamas in the WB.

  2. seafoid on July 21, 2014, 6:14 pm

    Amira Hass from last week

    “Lack of faith” is the common explanation for why the demonstrations do not spread. A leftist activist who went to the demonstration Wednesday suggested that her daughter join here. The daughter – “much more extreme than I am,” according to her mother – refused. She said: “don’t believe that the demonstrations will achieve anything and that the price we’ll pay for clashing with the soldiers – injured, dead – is worth it.” The Palestinian Authority and its agencies have a schizophrenic, confusing discourse: on the one hand speeches and denouncements of the occupation and on the other hand, habituation to its dictates. The PA’s official radio station is playing these days of military conflict militant music about martyrs and liberation, while the security agencies continue to oppress Hamas activists. On Wednesday night, members of the Preventive Security force stopped the Palestine Today TV channel from broadcasting live shots of Palestinian police forcibly breaking up a demonstration of young people in Jenin who were trying to reach the military checkpoint.
    Such leadership does not inspire the faith that can lead an uprising if one breaks out. “For a popular struggle against the occupation, that people are talking about all the time, a strategy is needed, a plan and patience,” says Ifaf Ghatasheh, a member of the political bureau of the Palestinian People’s Party (formerly the Palestinian Communist Party). But there is no faith that the current leadership of the PLO, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, wants or is able to lay out such a strategy not now, and not without far-reaching changes that will take a long time.
    Under Abbas, a style of authoritarian rule has been created, in which he makes decisions almost alone, without taking other positions in Fatah and the PLO into consideration and without consulting people who are more in tune with the public than the advisors around him, particularly intelligence chief Majid Faraj. If he would consult others, he would hear from some of them from the beginning of the escalation that on the one hand he should support Hamas’ demand for international guarantees for the ceasefire and on the other hand, he should talk about the obligation to avoid more bloodshed and destruction.
    There is an outrageous contrast between Abbas’ role as a level-headed statesman who is discussing a ceasefire today, and the public disparagement of his abilities and the attitude to him as a tyrant. His logical and humane position and the great suffering must stop is perceived by many as another link in his policy of “subcontractor” for the occupation. This interpretation screams of a lack of faith.
    Along with this goes a lack of faith in the entire political system, which is still torn by the rivalry and animosity between Hamas and Fatah, which has grown stronger over the past month. Fatah as a rule does not show solidarity with Gaza. Fatah cannot denounce Hamas rocket fire publicly because at this point the popular support for the rocket fire (especially as a symbol of Palestinian resilience in the face of Israeli power) is broad. Fatah cannot support the rocket fire openly because this will clash with Abbas’ position and will reveal that Hamas is indeed winning in the contest over who is a more patriotic, worthy and successful leader.
    When the Palestinians have so many reasons for their lack of faith in their leadership, the geographical disconnect also affects the ability of the protests to spread. The Palestinian enclaves that Israel created in the West Bank and East Jerusalem experience the occupation differently, with varying degrees of severity. Thus the Israeli policy of suppression is expressed differently in each enclave. And responses to it develop in each enclave. Absent a strategy and faith in the leadership, the responses remain local and limited.”

    Maybe Gaza will change the dynamic.

  3. RobertB on July 21, 2014, 6:39 pm

    The palestinian people need to dump that incompetent Abbas & his crew…they are corrupt to the bone. Abbas does not care about the palestinian people…their daily suffering, their daily humiliations & the hundreds who lost their lives under a brutal Israeli occupier. Abbas needs to go…far away…and his personal wealth needs to be given back to the needy palestinians who lost everything…while he enjoyed his villa…traveling and living it up.

    The palestinians need new leadership…who are articulate on an international platform…who are not afraid to stand up and condemn Israel’s massacres & their Apatheid policies. People like Hanan Ashrawi, Diana Buttu…and others!

  4. concernedhuman on July 21, 2014, 8:43 pm

    Israel’s defense minister said it would take two or three days to destroy the tunnels. If this crisis is to end soon, Israel will have to pull back and Hamas needs to stop firing rockets. In Hamas’ opinion, they have achieved one of their objectives, which is to give Israel a bloody nose.

  5. Citizen on July 22, 2014, 12:10 am

    July 22

    A Palestinian man who was part of a group that was throwing fire-bombs during a riot was killed by IDF soldiers late Monday night in the West Bank town of al-Ram, which is near Ramallah.
    The deceased is Mahmoud Shawamreh, 21, of al-Ram, according to AFP.
    The IDF said its troops responded to a violent riot in the town in which the demonstrators set tires on fire and threw fire-bombs at the IDF soldiers.
    The soldiers fired warning shots and fired at the lower extremities of the rioters. During this IDF response Shawamreh was killed, the IDF confirmed.

  6. bilal a on July 22, 2014, 7:57 am

    Brzezinski: PM Netanyahu scuttles peace

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