From my journal, interviews, letters, and other writing about internally expelled Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza (once I can enter Gaza), plus their ancestral homelands. These dispatches are based on my latest sojourns in Palestine-Israel from mid-May to mid-July 2019 and more recent writing. Currently, the Covid-19 pandemic prevents me from returning. I now begin making plans to return in fall, 2021.
My major intention is to convey perspectives expressed by the people I interview, as I understand them, allowing for translation problems, misinformation on the parts of all people involved, and my own biases and ignorance. The histories they present, for instance, I may not agree with. I feel accuracy in reporting what people tell me is more important than the accuracy of their statements. Rather than insert my disagreements with their statements, which could be regarded as an act of white, Eurocentric, male supremacy, I hope to provide open platforms for those I meet.
Part one of my blog about Ibrahim Eid Nghnghia, and friend and son in Jenin
For all Israel’s vaulted strength, technological sophistication and long experience in counter-insurgency, [Israel] has not succeeded in “defeating” the Palestinians. In fact, as the French learned in the Battle of Algiers, the rate of attrition in the ability of a strong oppressor to withstand the loss of moral legitimacy that comes from massive violations of human rights, international humanitarian law and simple justice is often greater than that of the oppressed with little to loose.Jeff Halper, War on the People: Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification
(With major assistance from Adnan Torokman, my colleague in Jenin, West Bank, Occupied Palestine)
Continuing the story of Yahia Moneeb Al-Sadi and Ibrahim, and Ibrahim’s son Adnan Torokman, now close to two years since I met them in July 2019. How are they now, how have they survived not only the ongoing relentless Nakba, but the Covid pandemic? When Ibrahim and his family, including Adnan, arrived in Jenin in 1968 from their post-Nakba home in the Jordan Valley, the village of Jiftlik, fleeing the ongoing violence between Israel and Jordan, later the demolition of their homes, no housing was available. Adnan was 3 years old and remembers nothing from this period. They stayed with a family, Ibrahim and his family in a single room. Then into a family-sized tent in the UN refugee camp established in 1953, using toilets outside the camp. Eventually the family built larger housing.
People arrived from the Jordan Valley at different times, families searched for each other. They organized the camp by their original home regions and by families, one specifically for dark-skinned people. Ibrahim said there was no discrimination based on skin color.
Knowing that Ibrahim now owned a fair amount of property in Jenin, including apartments used by Freedom Theater personnel and the theater itself (the old railroad storage shed from the Ottoman period), I asked Ibrahem how did you do this?
I worked in Saudi Arabia painting houses. I saved and sent money back home.
Ibrahim’s family consists of 7 boys and 5 girls, with cousins and grand children. Many live in the complex with Ibrahim and Adnan (and me when I stay in the Freedom Theater guest house).
After what many call The Battle of Jenin in 2002 during Operation Defensive Shield, in part Israel’s response to the Second Intifada or Uprising, Israel destroyed Ibrahim’s home because one son, a brother of Adnan, was a fighter. Did your brother live in the building? I asked Adnan. No, they destroyed it as punishment, a common occurrence. It took us 7 years to build, 1 hour to destroy—by 2 Caterpillar D9 bulldozers, made in the United States. ibrahim’s family lost 5 apartments for 5 families.
According to Human Rights Watch during that fighting at least 52 Palestinians, mostly gunmen, and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed, and unknown number injured. Israel destroyed some 500 homes. 3000 homeless.
When I interviewed the family in 2019, Israel still held the brother for his past history as a fighter; he awaited his court appearance.
Adnan did not participate in the fighting of 2002; instead he drove a tractor pulling a water tanker and sold the water. During the fighting, Israel destroyed his tractor and he began working for the municipality. In 2006 he joined the Freedom Theater as a business manager.
To rebuild the camp after the destruction in 2002, Sheikh Zaied of the Emirates contributed $30 million; the money supported rebuilding Adnan’s current house, a multistory apartment building rented to the Theater.
All three are disappointed in the lack of cohesive leadership in the Arab world to help Palestinians. Oslo is worthless, Yahia said. Adnan added, we can’t trust our divided leadership. What about our younger generation? They are even more disappointed, what are they going to do? Ibrahim believes that nothing will change, there is no hope. Adnan said, the Nakba is not just 1948, it is every day. I replied, trying to inject a source of hope they may not be aware of, we now have 2 Muslim women in United States congress; one wears a hijab, the other has family in Palestine. This is new, maybe even revolutionary. (Of course, I was referring to Ilhan Omar from Somalia representing Minneapolis and Rashida Tlaib representing Detroit. Both spoke forcefully about violence in the region last May, words that bolstered me and led to more threats against them.)
Will it make a difference? they ask. It could, I reply, both women and perhaps a growing number of our legislators loudly and boldly and courageously advocate for Palestinian rights. (I didn’t mention the House bill by Betsy McCollum, in effect, to condition military aid to Israel based on their human rights record, especially toward Palestinian children.)
You can’t easily go against a raging river, Adnan said, but we will continue to live here. Equivalent to a defiant statement I often hear and respect: to exist is to resist.
Israel and the Occupied Territories: Shielded from Scrutiny: IDF Violations in Jenin and Nablus (Report by Amnesty International, 2002)
War on the People, Israel, the Palestinians, and Global Pacification, by Jeff Halper, 2015
This book is a disturbing insight into the new ways world powers such as the US, Israel, Britain and China forge war today. It is a subliminal war of surveillance and whitewashed terror, conducted through new, high-tech military apparatuses, designed and first used in Israel against the Palestinian population. Including nano-technology, hidden camera systems, information databases on civilian activity, automated targeting systems and unmanned drones, it is used to control the very people the nation’s leaders profess to serve. (Pluto Books)
‘We will overcome’: Jenin’s rebellious history as told by its elders | Middle East Eye, by Fareed Taamallah (September 26, 2021)
Ihan Omar again makes history, becoming the 1st Somali-American elected to U.S. House, by Eric Golden, November 2018
TO BE CONTINUED