Saturday, February 11, 2006
Yanun surrounded by the occupation (and some Danish stuff)
On Wednesday, Japanese ISM activist Kawichi and I were sent to a small Village near Nablus called Yanun. We made the journey in a hurry because the Ecumenical Accompaniment program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) that had maintained a permanent presence in Yanun for the last 3 years left suddenly and weren't returning for a few days.
I think the EAPPI were evacuated as a precaution given they climate surrounding "the Danish issue." We had a meeting in Yanun with Rashid the Mayor of the village and some UN workers who were wanting an update on the villages situation. Midway during our meeting the UN women received a phone call saying that they had orders to go to Jerusalem because of fears around the Danish stuff. So the UN left Kawichi and myself to bravely confront the armed settlers and any people who might mistrust pastries :).
On a more serious note I think the west needs to realise the serious implications that such racist media mean for activists trying to do work in places like Palestine. In a society that is mostly Muslim, the whole population is deeply offended by the cartoons (including non-Muslims). Even secular sections of the Palestinian community are treating this as a direct insult. A great Palestinian activists who I have worked with and has spent 3 years in jail for his involvement in the non-violent resistance told me "you can take away my land, you can take away my freedom, but you can't insult my god."
As a materialist I sense that the reverse is actually true, that the occupation, "Anti-Terror" laws targeted against Muslims in places like Australia and the banning of the Hijab in European countries are more likely the cause but this is the straw that has broken the camels back. If there wasn't the ongoing oppression people would probably see this like catholic or Kiwi jokes. As another Palestinian ISM activist reminded me "The second intifada started when Sharon stood on the temple mount in Jerusalem with 1000 armed people," the main frustration and the subsequent uprisings were against the occupation but that is where it started. I am not saying this is the start of intifada 3 but who knows (a rally that was violently attacked in Jerusalem that day seems to support the hypothesis).
Anyway enough of that for now. I had two conversations on the situation in Yanun, one with Rashid and the other with his brother Yassir (see below). The conversations kinda blur in my memory so I will just give a summary of the situation in Yanun. Yanun is a small village 12 families in total. There was another 20 families in the village about 4 years ago, but the village became surrounded by ideological settlers. Most people here classify settlements according to whether they have a fairly quiet population who have moved mainly due to cheap housing (economic settlements), such as the settlements in Bil'in or ideological settlers that are obsessed with driving out the Palestinian people to further the Jewish state.
There are 3 settlements on the hills that surround Yanun. The settlers used to come down to the village and terrorize the local population. They would walk into towns with guns and terrorize the local population. They fired shots through peoples windows, beat people up and had their dogs bathe in the local drinking water, contaminating it. Only this year were they able to replace an electricity generator destroyed by the settlers. The whole town evacuated for 3-4 days but slowly started to return when internationals moved into the village. The settlers make it impossible for the village to access 2/3rds of their farming land. The village and its land is in Area C meaning that it is classified as being under Israeli military control. This means that the Palestinian Authority doesn't operate in this area. They have been able to get the Israeli military to agree to protecting them against the settlers during some of the olive harvest so they can harvest their olives. Before the settlements they had several months to harvest their olives, now they are dependent on when the military agree to help them, which one season recently was only 2 days.
Before the community was able to export their olives. Now they only get enough for themselves. Even the kid who used to run around the area freely cant climb to the top of the hill that their village is on for fear of 'provoking' settlers.