This is the place where we publish the most intrepid adventures in our love crusade. At the moment we have on menu:
-South Africa by Greg Bennick (Trial)-Haiti by Immortal Technique-Palestine by Dj C. Rabbithole (Slavearc/Cannan)
Please scroll down and enjoy...
South Africa by Greg Bennick (Trial)...
|Mr. Greggory Le Trial, Phd.|
Senior Political Analyst Gregory "Le Trial" sends us his thoughts, views and perceptions from Youngsfield Refugee camp, Cape Town, South Africa.
This is an update about our month-long combined filming trip and exploration of South Africa, going out to all of you...some of whom I have not talked to in a very long time. Be in touch someday.
My life has been changed forever by South Africa. In the past ten years, I have traveled to fifty states, five continents and over thirty countries. I have talked to people all over the world about their lives, their history, and their hopes for a future. But South Africa leaves me speechless.
Something about South Africa has burned a hole directly into my heart. There is too much to type.
We spent yesterday and today in the refugee camps, doing exactly what I came half a world to do. We spent two days face to face with refugees from all over Africa. Men, women, and children from Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Congo, Somalia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, who were homeless as a result of the recent attacks here on foreigners. These are people who had fled wars, torture, murderous gangs and beatings in their homelands to come to South Africa in hopes of having half a chance at freedom, only to be attacked here as well and end up in refugee camps with no future and no hope.
Forgive the lack of clarity in my writing. I am exhausted and am not thinking clearly.
Yesterday, we'd gone to the camps to play with the children there, because we'd heard that the children in the camps are losing their minds with boredom, as weeks of hunger, cold, rain, and no toys and nothing to do take effect. We were told that the South African Army, who is housing this particular camp, allowed absolutely no filming whatsoever and that we stood no chance of getting permission to film. This was a huge disappointment for us.
Needless to say, driving up to rows of army tents, people wandering and shouting out to one another, and seeming anarchy in the midst of a military environment didnt leave us feeling particularly safe or comfortable, but that is largely the challenge of this trip. Feeling comfortable means that nothing is changing. Comfortable is what you get from inaction.
We got out of the car and the trauma center director gave us the toys which had been donated for the children. I walked into the main tent where 70 children were waiting and scrambling to get access to the 20 or so crayons
that had been supplied to them by donations from the outside, and said to the woman who was in charge, "Who can I talk to about filming here?" She looked at me in despair and replied "How should I know...I have only been here for an hour". In that moment I realized that my group, having just arrived into the chaos, was second in command already, by only 59 minutes.
We'd been given "toys" to distribute yesterday to the children by a local NGO, but the toys turned out to be garbage. Literally. The toys we'd been given were the garbage of Cape Town: broken pieces of plastic that kids in Cape Town had thrown away that we had to give out anyway to the refugee children because they'd been promised toys and we had nothing else to give.
Kids were clamoring for these broken pieces of plastic. It broke my heart. I watched a little boy of about five hold a broken piece of plastic in his hands trying to figure out how to play with it. Another, about six years old, held just the wings to a model airplane. Another the remote to a remote control car but no car. He asked me "Is there car?" I had to reply that there wasn't. He looked so sad. I felt entirely helpless.
I sought out the military commander of the base and asked for permission to film interviews with the people there. To our surprise, he granted permission, telling me that he'd been ordered by his commander to let in all press who asked. He'd been advised of our presence as well by the director of the Trauma Center for Survivors of Violence and Torture, who we'd interviewed two days ago along with a man named Muhammad who had been imprisoned by the South African government for fighting against apartheid, and placed into solitary confinement and sensory deprivation for months.
The granting of permission was a huge surprise. It was a turn of events that completely inspired us. We left heart broken about the children and the broken toys, but inspired to come back today with new purpose.
|photo by face the show|
We left the camp and went out last night and bought toys. A hundred tennis balls. A dozen packages of soap bubbles. Crayons and pens and paper, and coloring books. And today we went back, armed with those toys, our film cameras, and entirely open hearts.
We walked into the camp today, presented ourselves to the military, and walked past the gates. We gave out all the toys. We juggled for the kids, taught them to draw, learned to draw from them, laughed and played with them. We took hundreds of photos.
And then we interviewed them.
And their older brothers and sisters.
And their parents.
And this is when the bottom dropped out of the world. Everyone has a story. Not everyone gets to tell their story. Today we listened, filmed, and felt the depths of many people who would never have been heard from otherwise. People who have seen things no one should ever see.
We met Musa, age 31 from Rwanda, who had fled the genocide in the mid 90's to South Africa, only to be attacked here for being a foreigner. He told me that the gangs tricked him. They spoke to him on the street in Xhosa, one of the native South African languages. When he couldnt reply, because he didnt understand, they stabbed him in the face, and in the back.
We met Danny, from the Congo, who at age eleven offered one of the most profound interviews I have ever had the chance to be a part of. I say that without reservation. Danny told me at one point before the interview: "In Congo, the people were shooting, killing and burning us. Here in South Africa, they are killing and shooting and burning us. Nothing is changed. I do not know why." No eleven year old in the world should know of such things. Danny dreams of becoming the president of the United States someday.
His interview might very well be at the core of what gets edited from this trip. We can hardly wait to get started with all the projects we have in mind.
|photo by face the show|
We met Owen from Zimbabwe. Owen has advanced degrees in chemistry and molecular biology. He is 29. He fled Zimbabwe because of threats of violence and because the economy there has collapsed. A bottle of cooking oil costs $300 billion Zimbabwean dollars there now. That is not a typo. It costs that much if you can find a bottle of oil on the black market. Most people can't and the store shelves are empty. He told me that Coke is more common than bread, but no one can afford Coke.
With his advanced degrees, Owen still struggles to maintain hope. He is in the camp because his neighbors in Cape Town threatened his life for being Zimbabwean.
We met a man from Congo who is in the camp alone because his wife and children were killed before he left his native country.
We met a refugee who told us "I have no hope." We met a refugee from Zimbabwe who after the cameras stopped, said to me sadly "We will die in here." Dozens of other people stopped us to talk and tell their stories. We did interviews nonstop for nine hours. As we talked to these people we realized again and again that these were not Congolese, or Rwandans, or Somalis. They were people. Like you and me.
People with loves and desires and fears and families. We tend to think of people as different because of their skin color, their poor English, their nationality. We grew up watching tv commercials for the starving Ethiopians and Africans and had ingrained the idea that these weren't people, but rather things to pity, to send change to and then to forget, having done our work. If it hadnt occurred to me before, today it finally did: these are people.
We took photos and listened deeply, and connectedly, trading contact information, and planning for revolution in the hearts and souls and lives of these people. The followup is already underway and is very real. Some of the people we met did not go to bed hungry tonight.
|a life juggler|
Today was the beginning of communication, transformation, discovery. I am not the person I was when I woke up this morning. Neither are the students we brought with us. We had a discussion tonight with the students and shared reflections on the day. In 90 minutes of talking we barely scratched the surface of what we'd felt.
As I type, I am sitting on the floor of the hostel in which our group is staying. Everyone in my group has gone to bed. It is 2:15 in the morning and we need to be up in a few hours to go and visit with and interview a group who is doing AIDS outreach in rural areas.
The only people awake right now are this group of tourists who are staying here who just stumbled drunk into the hostel after a long night of partying. They are talking loud, looking for cigarettes, disconnected. They are talking about things which do not exist to me. These people do not live in my world anymore, or rather I do not live in theirs. My world is and will be the world in which Musa lives. And Danny. And Owen. And the boy who yesterday had only a remote control for a car which would never come, but who fell asleep tonight having laughed and played all day with a new tennis ball.
This is a world not made of us and them. It is made of us and us, with the us other than ourselves just existing with different faces...with different names, different languages. We live on a planet with 5 billion other ourselves. And they are waiting, for you, for me, to tell their stories to in hopes of being heard. They are waiting for help from those who have the ability to help them, because they have been attacked and hurt in body and mind and can no longer help themselves.
The world they live in is very real, inescapable.
|@ fluff fest|
In the words of Muhammad who we interviewed here, "I can not sit still while there are those who sleep on the streets tonight with a sheet of cardboard for a blanket and a brick for a pillow".
There is only an offering of the self. There is the intersection of compassion and creativity and inspiration and direction and focus and intensity and courage. Everything else is lifelessness and the void.
I love you all.
|@ London - Trial mini-reunion tour|
I have recently arrived home from Haiti.
While I was there I worked in a few aspects of the relief effort including a solidarity mission to aid the Earthquake survivors. In addition to all of this Myself, Cormega and Styles P participated in a show to support Haitian Hip Hop and rebuild the community. I would like to thank Arms Around Haiti and Hip Hop for Haiti for inviting me to be a part of this movement. While I was there I saw both devastation and rebuilding efforts. I also broke bread with people who had lost their entire family. Literally, everyone but them was deceased. Then there were those whose grief centered around losing a mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter as a direct result of what happened. It should make everyone reading this feel blessed to have anyone in his or her life. Think about that… Now think about it some more.
I saw so many different things as I walked through the slums and rode around Port-Au-Prince (as well as the area surrounding it.) I met mayors, townspeople, and the Arms around Haiti (Sobs staff) introduced me to several visionary Haitians with good ideas to rebuild the country that I am seriously considering investing my time into.
But one of the most powerful experiences came to me when I was holding this little baby girl who couldn’t have been more than a year old. She was crying because she was hungry, thirsty and tired. I picked her up and she hugged onto me with the newfound control her young muscles had recently provided her. She was one of the many orphans that I met while I was there, and as I held her I wondered what the future would hold for this little precious life. Her father would never hold her again and rock her back and forth to sleep while whispering stories to her. She might find good hearted and righteous people to one day adopt her, but her father, the man who created her would never tell her that he loved her or that she was special, save for the length of a dream or a subconscious memory. So I told her in French that I loved her, that she was beautiful and that she was special to me. I gave her all my water and her young face was immediately full of focus and comfort. After a few minutes of holding her, she fell into slumber. I gave her back to her to a 11-year old girl who had also lost her parents and was acting like a surrogate mother to most of the younger children.
Then I looked at my hands, they seemed like such strong hands before I went to Haiti. Strong like my will that is made of iron, and my resolve, which I consider unbreakable. But the strength of this young adolescent Matriarch and her newfound responsibility served as God’s gentle reminder and it humbled greatly as I realized what she carried on her shoulders. I am a Revolutionary but rather than just going to places around the world to bring people freedom, I seem to find it among them.
I felt great sadness leaving this place but I also felt anger at the things I saw. So I began to detail a few observations about Haiti and Revolutionary action associated with it in general. I wrote these things as I saw them or felt them but I waited until I was home for a few days so as to not elicit an emotional response but rather one of logic and understanding concerning the various things I saw.
The Spirit of Toussaint is Alive:
- Although the people have suffered here immensely, I still see their spirit still very strong, unbroken and defiant. Even though the sun floods the day with sweltering heat, the vast majority of people are working in some capacity. Many have their own small business or hustle and they take great pride in what they do. They find no shame in their work, however menial because, as it was told to me they felt blessed to have anyone to provide for. In the camps when dusk settles in, children play soccer with pieces of garbage tied up or maybe an old volleyball. They are survivalists as their history has taught them to be. The tent cities are home to usually 2 or 3 families per tent. Perhaps it is their past dealings with dictators sponsored by this nation, or by years of civil strife and a long Revolutionary history but they have become so resilient, so much so that they now serve as a personal inspiration to me of what mankind/original man can overcome.
All about the Benjamin’s, Mon Cheri:
Foreign Aid. That is a deceptive phrase. Many times the countries who, pledge money to a disaster-ridden nation are not giving that country money at all. They are really pledging the money to their corporation to rebuild the country at an inflated price set by the global conglomerate. It changes the very nature of what that means. Imagine if your house burnt down and I told the news and every local media outlet I was going to “donate” $100,000 to rebuild it. This is the catch the job really costs $20,000 to do. Yes, from the Capitalist pro business point of view I am providing a service that I deserve to be compensated for. But the characterization of what I am doing is purposefully altered so as to disguise the real motivation for “aiding” you. I’m not condemning the idea of foreign aid on a whole although there are aspects of it that create dependency and de facto vassals. But the system by which some of this “aid” is raised and distributed sometimes has little to do with anything resembling a humanitarian effort.
Let’s recap. I give you money, which you’re essentially giving back to me plus interest for doing something at twice the cost. I don’t give you fish anymore. That was Imperialism. This is Neo Liberalism, we teach you to fish, and collect 75% of the profit…forever. This system is actually the one that seems rational to first world powers now and is still implemented today all over the planet. Corporate Non Government Organizations (NGO’s) raise billions of dollars just to spend a fraction of that on the people who are actually affected and suffering. Then as if overpaying themselves wasn’t enough they act like they really did something. This system gives a bad name to real non-profit NGO’s and people that are selflessly doing something out of the kindness of their hearts. The Foreign Aid field is infested with corporate socialites and poverty pimps who troll around the mud with us dark people so you have something to talk about at your bourgeois industry parties. And where is the money going?
Waiting in Vain:
There is about 12 Billion dollars of Aid, waiting to be distributed, (conveniently earning interest for someone by the way) and since world agencies (take your pick) do not trust the shell of government left in Haiti, the situation has spiraled into a game of tit for tat in some instances. Corruption is not relegated to the surviving members of a fractured government. The customs area has thousands of pieces of clothing and non-perishable food that is simply sitting in store-rooms because customs is sometimes demanding $8,000 (US) to allow it into the country. You read it right, $8,000 American dollars to let a few boxes of supplies collected by people like you into the country. There are organizations such as the one I was there with, and Wyclef’s ‘Yele’ that use their longstanding connections with local power players and government officials to navigate around these bureaucracies, but it made me wonder how many good hearted people’s donations were just sitting there in some hangar collecting mold and dust. The supplies I handed out, the stuff I brought myself to give to people, the houses we put people in seemed like a good first step but now I wish more than anything to return and really make an impact having studied the situation. (* I remember after the Earthquake happened the mainstream media did a few stories criticizing smaller Aid Organizations on the ground and encourage people to direct their donation to the Major ones. Now I wonder if it was to promote efficiency or was it to safeguard their corporate partners monopoly?)
In Haiti, child trafficking is still going on, because it’s a lucrative business. It hasn’t stopped just because the news has stopped covering it, this right here is still happening.
I have even heard rumors about aid workers trading food for sex with little girls and boys. I’m not repeating these charges to try and substantiate them in any way. Because I hope they’re a lie, or at worst an exaggeration of an isolated incident. Far be it for me to try and pass innuendo off as fact but when you hear something like that from dozens of people from different walks of life, it makes you think. The reality after the Earthquake was that many of these children were (and still are) stolen and shipped out immediately or taken over to the Dominican Republic whose government is also very corrupt and sold to every corner of the world. Sad to think that the nation that showed the world that a successful slave revolution was possible has it’s sons and daughters sold into slavery in 2010.
The Almighty UN:
When I was young I thought the UN was a powerful entity, like the Super friends from Saturday morning cartoons. I was fed the idea that they provided a solution to arguing nations and would be helpful in taking the side of the underdog, the oppressed and colonized. But as I grew I realized it was just a way of making it look like America and Britain were not acting alone and it rewarded participants who conscripted their troops there. They are a Right Wing punching bag but really that’s duplicitous because they have been used to justify our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. As if it is full of equal partners who are committed to the mission. Truth is the UN peacekeepers are full of many soldiers who would otherwise be getting paid $100 a week to be a soldier in their own country.
The UN security-council resolutions have no teeth without the US’s approval, and sometimes they go to a country (like Haiti) and get a paycheck for doing very little. As I keep having interactions with them, my opinion just keeps on worsening. I by no means had any of those young teenage illusions about them going into this trip, but this is my observation. There is no salvation for the 3rd world in this entity. Truthfully, the UN are a war (with a real country) away from being as much of a part of history as the Hanseatic League. As we speak. They act as the de-facto military rulers of Haiti, with the US leaning over them looking at possible candidates. I think in all honesty they want a Haitian Karzai of their very own so perhaps their weakness is deceptive on purpose and they are just the arm of a face that has not revealed itself yet. “Le temps est un grand maître, dit-on, le malheur est qu’il tue ses élèves.”
Jesus’s Power Broker:
Haiti is flooded with Christian missionaries. There were 40 of them on the plane with me headed to Port-Au-Prince. In case you don’t know what a missionary is kids, it’s not just a sexual position. (Although plenty of people have been fucked over the years.) It means someone who goes to other countries and tells people that their religion or native custom is savage and full of useless ceremonies to God’s & spirits that don’t exist. And while I know some of these people mean well, their very existence and purpose is in complete contradiction to what their religion actually teaches. Some are working to build schools and help out with social programs, but always with the agenda to prosthletize and solidify their religious control over the area. So no matter what their intentions are, they look like their peddling Jesus on a fishing pole with foreign aid wrapped in Bible paper on a hook. In the past they were dispatched to countries to make them as Christian as possible in a direct effort to bring them into the colonial power’s sphere of influence. You see Imperial powers could not win by military force, and so conversion directly aided in our subjugation and apparently still aids in our placation. As long as we let other people define God for us we will not only be the physical but also the spiritual prisoner of our oppressors vision.
- Spain, Portugal, England, France and Italy, etc… did this “missionary work” all over Africa, Asia and Latin America. Many of you people reading this who are of the aforementioned faith have them to thank, not divine intervention for what you believe. I am not in any way shape or form trying to detract from the individuals who really have the message of Jesus Christ in their hearts. I honestly believe if we lived our lives by the teachings of Christ this world would be a better place. But there are too many frauds making money off of Yeshua these days. The crazy thing is, that as many Muslim and Jewish charities that are working in Haiti, I haven’t witnessed any effort by them to convert people to Judaism or Islam. What is it about this faith that we hold so dear in America that makes us so insecure about what other people believe in? You’re going to have to stop using the excuse you want to “save people” and just admit that you don’t feel comfortable around someone until they believe in what you believe, spiritually. What gives us the moral authority to go around the world and tell the indigenous people of every continent that their religion is a farce and the only real truth was compiled in Constantinople in 325 AD? Isn’t the most “Christian” thing in the world to give charity to the poor and suffering without asking for anything in return? (Least of all, the culmination of all their beliefs.)
As I walked through the tent cities full of families waiting for water and cooking whatever they could find for their collective I happened upon a long road. It led me through the scorching slums of the outer area of Port-Au-Prince. While I was walking these two young brothers who ere dressed in red asked me if I was a Blood. I looked at them both and I responded that I wasn’t and one of them then raised his eyebrow, “you Crip then?” He asked with a heavy Creole accent. I said that I was neither and I was more like a Black Panther. After all OG Black Panthers and people from the Indigenous movements have taught me a libraries worth of knowledge. The younger one asked me what a Black panther was. I searched my surrounding for an analogy and there just happened to be a small tree near by. So I walked them over to it. The tree had two branches littered with a few leaves. Holding one branch I said, “this one is the blood” and pointing to the other one I said, “this one is the Crip” and then putting his hand on the trunk close to the roots, I said “this one is the Black Panther”. “Ne de la Revolution” which means Born out of Revolution in my humble French. The young kid smiled at me and asked me more about the Black Panthers. I stood there speaking to him for a little while and then we saluted one another and went our separate ways. Although Haiti is twice as hood as any place in the US, they are such a young country full of children who must become adults before their time. If they are to succeed, someone must educate them to the fact that what people call Black history is in fact world history. I would be honored to be a part of that someday. Don’t worry I won’t NGO them for hundreds of G’s either. I’d settle for a room and some coffee in the morning.
La Revolucion de Latino America:
For those of us who are studying Latin American Revolution, Haiti is the prequel, the seemingly invincible power of France being challenged and overcome. The Napoleonic wars gave America a chance to breathe away from the eyes of Europe long enough to affirm itself. France’s assault on Spain weakened the European states enough for us to take the moment that we cherish as our time for ‘Revolucion’. The story of our Revolution doesn’t begin in the 1950’s but in the Indigenous revolts of the conquest era and the early 1800’s when a small island of enslaved Africans showed the world that it was possible. Estudiantes Latinos, estudia esta Revolucion, sus lecciones son unas de las mas importantes para apprender. Tienen te todo, de raza, de classe, de corrupcion, y por supuesto del sacrificio necessario para obtener la libertad.
I learned something very reassuring about myself in Haiti, something I am proud to acknowledge and leave my people on a good note with. When I meet someone who is a better activist, or Revolutionary, (I’ll be happy to make that distinction later) when I see someone whose actions achieve more than mine, or who has a more complete perspective I become inspired. I don’t get bitter or jealous and think about trying to “out-revolutionary” them. That’s so pointless and yet it is something that I see sometimes in the movement, people who think that because another doesn’t adhere to the same ideology or the same faith that we must bring them down. I am a Revolutionary and I need no one’s permission to be. We were successful at breaking ground in Haiti, but my mission there is by no means complete, I wish to plan further actions with my friends at Arms Around Haiti and the staff at SOBS. I would like to thank Jube, Mario, Cormega, StylesP, Herbie, Clef, Yele, Arms Around Haiti, Parrish, BC, and my Haitian Soldiers there for making this trip possible I look forward to returning soon.
“Le travail éloigne de nous trois grands maux: l’ennui, le vice et le besoin.”
Peace & Respect,
Palestine by DJ C. Rabbithole(Slavearc/Cannan/Kurohata):
Dj C. Rabbithole
Ultra-extra-special-Dj C. Rabbithole sent us this amazing report from Palestine describing his adventures in the apartheidic lands of Zion. He was embedded for 10 days with an amalgam of the créme de la créme of european hardcore touring in one of most challenging places to tour for people who still have a heart and care about others.
Report from Palestine (Israel) Pt 1
This report was written from my observations from tagging along with the punk/hardcore band Hello Bastards on their tour of Israel from the dates 5th February 2009 – 15th February 2009. Report 1 was written halfway through our stay in Israel, Report 2 was written on my return to London, England. These views are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Hello Bastards.
Arriving at the airport in Tel Aviv is a story in itself. Getting off the plane we were asked questions by airport security every few meters or so and that’s even before we get to passport control. Questions such as “what are you doing here” “how do you all know each other” “it’s strange you all know each other considering you are all from different countries, explain yourself” among others. It took us roughly 1 hour to get through the airport security and this was partly achieved due to one of our group who told the final security person that we had all met at a Coldplay concert and the guy who questioned us loved Coldplay. Making our way from the airport to the train station we were followed by plain clothes police. At the platform, these plain clothes officers were trying to listen to our conversations and making it quite obvious that we were being watched. We thought that we were special for receiving this extra attention but our good friend Santi informed us that this is pretty normal procedure for security at the main train stations in Israel. Not a good sign!
The first thing that you notice when arriving in Tel Aviv is the pollution. It is overwhelming and that’s saying something coming from London. We hopped onto the train - our destination, an unassuming Arab suburb just outside Tel Aviv called Jaffa. Jaffa has character that’s for sure; Jaffa is one of the better areas of Tel Aviv, not because of the architecture or tourist sites as there was not really any (Jaffa is pretty much a run down area), but because of the hard working nature of the town and the people who live there. We stayed in Jaffa with a bunch of people from Anarchists Against The Wall (Santi who plays bass in Hello Bastards and Jonathan one of the people to set up AATW) - more about them later.
photo taken by Agent Segovia
After just a few hours sleep it was time to head to the rehearsal space booked for the band and from there onto the venue for the gig that night. The gig was in a really small venue. It was a great gig. The other bands that played that evening were all from Israel and were amazing. The scene here may be small but it is very creative and political and something which has been missing from gigs I have been to for the past few years - fun! Before Hello Bastards played some kid in a balaclava burnt an Israeli flag, this built tension and set the scene for when the band played.
When Hello Bastards came on stage Amy gave an amazing speech about anarchism and the solidarity of all struggles from Greece to Palestine - the crowd seemed to welcome this and people started dancing even before a song was played. The kids knew most of the songs and cheered at every speech Amy and Max gave. The kids really appreciated the fact that the band spoke about many aspects of the Palestinian struggle from check-points to house demolitions.
Jaffa was our base for our stay in Israel. We travelled to many places of interest - Nazareth, Haifa, Dead Sea, Judean Desert among others. The natural areas of Israel are stunning and are something which I am grateful to have seen. Israel is a place of extreme contradictions. You have the wealthy Israeli areas right next to the deprived and run down Arab areas. The racism and patriotism in Israel is extreme to say the least. Israeli flags are everywhere; they are on every car, every building and every piece of rock in the desert - all claimed by an Israeli flag – it is very disheartening.
For our journeys throughout the country we had to hire a car, this introduced us to our first real experience of racism so far on the trip. The guy working for this car rental company (a major brand) said to us “I will draw a line on your map to show you the places not to visit” naively one of us asked “why because of theft or crime” the guy said “no, because these areas are Arab areas.” Most Israeli’s we came across were rude and unhelpful; I feel sorry to say that but we get treated weird here. They stare at us and most of the time ignored us when we tried to talk to them. This is opposed to the Arab areas where people talk to us and smile and are helpful showing us the way when we get lost.
Ok, so we are staying with a group of people from Anarchists Against The Wall. AATW are an Israeli direct action group who act as human shields and protest against various aspects of Israeli oppression, primarily supporting the Palestinians during house demolitions and marching against the apartheid wall which Israel are constructing right through Palestinian land. These are some of the most dedicated people
photo taken by Agent Segovia
I have ever met in my life. These people are full time activists and willingly put their lives on the lines at demonstrations here. The day we arrived in Israel, house demolitions were taking place in Jaffa. We were asked if we wanted to attend the demonstration to show support to the locals; although feeling guilty, we decided not to go as we were tired, we had had no sleep, the band had to rehearse later that day and whatnot, but there was also the possibility of getting arrested, potentially jeopardising the remainder of our trip.
Demonstrations take place here everyday, seemingly the struggle is continuous. A few days later we were asked to attend another demonstration as part of AATW to stop a fascist MP who would be going to an Arab village under the guise of acting as an observer but more likely to provoke a reaction from Arabs during the Israeli elections. We thought long and hard as this demo had the potential to be violent. The main policy of the party this man belongs to is to kick out all those Israelis and Arabs who refuse to swear allegiance to Israel – fascism, I think you would agree!
This guy comes from Russia. So what should we do? Should we continue with our tourism or attend a demonstration where we could get into serious trouble? We stayed awake talking from 10.00pm till 2.00am discussing the consequences. We decided to go! The demonstration was in an Arab town called Umm Al-Fahm (separated from the West Bank) at 6.00 in the morning and we had to wake up at 4.00am. So after just 2 hours of sleeping we managed to wake up and join the crew. We met about 20 other activists somewhere in Tel Aviv and we all travelled to the demonstration. When we arrived at the demonstration, the road had been blockaded; we were stopped by Palestinians who asked us if we were fascists? We were not so they let us through. The IDF were everywhere with huge guns, it was very intimidating.
The Palestinians were angry wishing to stop this fascist from entering the town. The demonstration passed off relatively successful with only minor scuffles and we were asked by the organiser of the demonstration to attend his mum’s house to eat humus - of course we went. The house was a really traditional Palestinian house and was very humble.
When we arrived with the other activists the old man of the house asked the women to go to one room while the men to the other. This was interesting to see how the activists (many were anarchists) dealt with this situation. We were in the house for maybe 1 hour before suddenly people started shouting in Arabic and rushed out of the house - the fascist MP had managed to get into the town via a different route; we said our goodbyes and thanked the family for the wonderful food. We all rushed to the new location, by the time we arrived it had kicked off. The man who had just invited us to his house had got arrested. The Palestinians were rioting; kids were throwing stones at the IDF.
photo by Agent Segovia
It was getting violent. Some of us joined the action some of us stayed at the back. Myself and one of our group (Wayne) moved towards the action – more out of curiosity than some new found courage - as we did so a soldier lifted his gun and aimed it directly at us, I immediately crashed to the floor and Wayne ran for it. When I looked up the people from AATW were at the front of the demonstration trying to de-arrest some of the people who were being arrested, regardless for their own safety. Luckily nothing was fired from the soldiers, but it was scary. Tit for tat struggles continued for the best part of 2 hours when suddenly the heavens opened, and I have never seen lightening or thunder like that in my life. It was time to go.
When we got back to Tel Aviv we were left with another dilemma. We were asked to attend a demonstration as human shields in the Occupied Territories in a place called Ni’ilin, or another town nearby called Bi’lan. Both places are where people are getting shot in killed right now. The week before we arrived in Israel a Swedish activist was shot in the leg by a sniper. The day we arrived Jonathan (one of the guys we are staying with) was also shot in the leg, luckily the bullet missed his leg and went straight through his trousers.
We were told that it is a new policy of the IDF to deliberately aim at Western activists and shoot them below the waist, presumably to stop activists from going to these places and reporting on the situation. So, needless to say we are debating what to do. The demo is tomorrow (Friday). If we go with AATW we know that they will be going into the firing line and we have to follow as we can’t get separated, they will essentially be our guides. To be honest, we are not that brave, or I am not anyway, this is different from demonstrations in Europe where the chance of death or serious injury is minimal, we now have to face the possibility that something terrible could happen to any one of us. But after many hours of discussing we have decided to possibly go with them. We have been briefed that there is a very real chance of being shot by snipers or hit by rubber bullets from the soldiers - after all we are expected to be human shields. The decision is ours. My heart says we should do it, my mind says we should not. I will let you know on my return what happened.
I am now on my way to Jerusalem!
Report from Palestine (Israel) Pt 2
In a recent interview conducted with Norman Finkelstein for a Middle Eastern newspaper, when asked if he will ever return to Israel he replied “I do not have any particular interest to go and visit that lunatic state.” I have to say, I concur completely with that statement. In fact I feel that Israel is not just a lunatic state but also a fascist and racist one at that and returning to that country is the last thing I can envisage doing (unless to go and demonstrate in Palestine.) In our short time in Israel I have witnessed both fascism and racism first hand; this country needs to take a serious look at itself - I have never been to a country which is on the verge of becoming a clone of Nazi Germany, maybe I am exaggerating but I have come away from this tour feeling depressed and seriously concerned for the safety of those I have left behind.
Before I talk about the decision we made about whether to attend the demonstration or not I just need to back track as there is some information missing from my first email which I need to mention. From the first demo that we attended in Umm Al-Fahm eight Palestinian protesters were later arrested. One of those arrested (the Palestinian man who invited us to his house) is still in jail – there is a news report from AATW here regarding that demonstration http://www.awalls.org/israeli_fascism_driven_out_of_umm_al_fahm_7
There are interesting political dynamics within the Palestinian villages we visited. The village where this demonstration took place is Communist run, and the aforementioned Palestinian man arrested is the leader of the Communist Party in this area. I was informed that the Party does great things for this village and seems to have huge support here. There were Communist flags everywhere; every house and every car in the village had flags, quite a contrast to other Palestinian villages we visited where Hamas seems to be the dominant party.
photo by Agent Segovia
I also neglected to mention that during our time here, elections took place; this created a very tense atmosphere. The results were pretty shocking. The party Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Is Our Home) run by neo-fascist Avigdor Lieberman came in 3rd place. To get some understanding of this result, this is the equivalent of the BNP beating the Liberal Democrats in the UK elections. This is a surge to the extreme right for Israel and shows the mentality of this country. In any other country Lieberman would have been considered a fascist, but here he is considered as a legitimate player within Israeli politics. Not that there is much difference between the left and right in Israel anyway, but this result does stand testament to the current thinking of Israeli citizens – it’s very worrisome.
photo by Agent Segovia
It could be because of this that we had many issues with Israelis. Without trying to generalise too much, we were made to feel like foreigners and unwelcome the whole time we were there. Everybody would stare at us; make comments about us, in the end we kind of adopted a siege mentality. Some Israelis were helpful and nice, don’t get me wrong, but we just came away from this trip with a very bad feeling. We always felt more comfortable in the Arab areas, where people were very friendly and welcoming. Israelis always seem to be on edge. At two Hello Bastards gigs fights broke out and I ended up restraining people from fighting at both gigs – I did not come here for this shit. Israel is like one huge army garrison. Just to enter a vegetarian restaurant we had to have our bags searched by a security guard with a gun and at the gigs it was the same procedure. It was like this everywhere. There is a great amount of paranoia in Israel, and it has to be asked is it really necessary? I have lived through the IRA bombings on mainland England and I do not remember anything even remotely close to this.
Anyway, returning to the present, after much deliberation we decided to attend the demonstration. We discussed whether to attend for many many hours, in fact this one subject probably occupied most of our conversations on this trip. There are demonstrations happening all over the West Bank on a daily basis. From my understanding the two main demonstrations are in the Palestinian towns of Bil’in and Ni’ilin - both are in the Ramallah and al-Bireh area of the West Bank. We were told by many people we spoke to at gigs that as this is our first time in the West Bank we should really go to Bil’in, which, although is still relatively dangerous, it is less so than Ni’ilin, however, this was usually followed by the comment “but knowing the people you are staying with you will be going to Ni’ilin.” We tried our best to encourage our hosts that Bil’in is the better option for us in terms of safety and that it’s our first time in the West Bank so we should be careful, all this whilst trying our best not to show how scared we were. The morning arrived of the demonstration and we were informed that we would be going to Ni’ilin. Damn, my thoughts immediately turned to the Swedish activist shot there recently and to all the stories I had been told about Ni’ilin - I felt a bit faint and was scared. I was asked to draw on courage I was not sure I had; a sense of reality hit me, this was it, there was no backing out, we would be going to one of the most dangerous places to protest in the West Bank and we could get seriously injured or killed. I guess deep down I knew Ni’ilin would be our destination; after all, I had got to know these activists pretty well and anything less than helping people in the most extreme situations would be failure to them. I asked our host “why the fuck Ni’ilin”, the response was “Bil’in already has lots of internationals and activists there; Ni’ilin needs our help more, we need to be there” and that was that. On a side note, international activists are very important to the Palestinian struggle and can save lives. The IDF are less inclined to kill Palestinians if they know they could inadvertently kill an international or Israeli citizen (although as we know from Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall this is not always the case.)
photo by Agent Segovia
We made our way to the meeting point where we met about 10 other internationals, in total there were 17 of us leaving from this point. We all bundled into a few cars and off we went. On the way we were briefed about what to expect, what to do and what not to. We were going to march to the proposed area where the separation wall will be once it is built. We were told not to initiate anything once the protest starts as we were there merely to support the locals; this meant no stone throwing or anything else along those lines as this could have serious consequences not only for the activists but also for the locals. We were told to buddy up; we had to stay with our buddy at all times as we would be responsible for each other.
We were told that when the tear gas attacks happen (not if but when) do not run as when you panic you breathe in more gas, and that you should cover your face with a scarf or some sort of material as this will give you a few valuable seconds to make your way out of the range of the gas and do not touch your eyes or use water to wash your eyes as this makes it worse – we were told that the gas here is different and I found out a lot stronger from ones used in Europe. We were also told that when shit happens always follow the Palestinians as they know where to run. We prepared as much as possible and agreed who our buddies would be (determined by where you will likely demonstrate at the rear or front of the demonstration) and exchanged phone numbers in case we get separated. We were informed that the town we were heading to was a Hamas town and that it was very traditional. Women are not allowed to protest with the men although exceptions are made for internationals, we also had to be culturally aware and were informed that we could expect to see scenes of extreme animal cruelty; if we were to see anything we were asked to bite our lips unless we really felt it necessary to step in.
After an hour’s driving from Tel Aviv we came to the first military check-point. Our driver who speaks Hebrew explained that we were heading to a town near Ni’ilin. The soldiers although suspicious let us through. Along the journey we passed many Israeli settlements. The settlements are easy to spot. They look like nice houses from Bavaria or somewhere similar – they all have red roofs with white bases, with nice manicured gardens. This is in contrast to their neighbouring Palestinian towns which are essentially slums. Our driver informed us that most of the water for the region was being directed to these settlements whilst the Palestinians have a regulated water service. Most of the time water does not flow into their houses and when it does it has no pressure, Palestinians have to make do with homemade wells even though this is Palestinian land.
The populations of these settlements are predominantly Americans and Russians – they are not native to the land. We soon came to our next check-point – again after a few minutes of discussions between our driver and a soldier we were let through. Along the journey we noticed that there were parallel roads. We were told Israelis and Palestinians have separate roads – needless to say many of the Palestinian roads were like dirt tracks compared to the well maintained Israeli roads. We had to go through one more check point on the edge of Ni’ilin before we could get into the town. Apparently we were able to move through these check points because our driver was Israeli, if she was Palestinian, we would not be going anywhere. We entered the town and greeted the other internationals. Most of the internationals were from the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) who have a house in the village and many were also from AATW.
Ni’ilin is a very deprived and run down town. It is built on a steep hill surrounded by farm land, rocky terrain and olive trees. The demonstration started at 12.00 after prayer time. As we made our way to the starting point of the march which was outside a mosque at the top of the hill, Palestinians came out and gave the activists chocolate as a thank you for showing support in their struggle. From the mosque there is a road which we would be marching down towards the area where the separation wall is planned to be built - right through Palestinian land – that would be our target! The land is covered in olive trees and lots of huge rocks from which we were told that Israeli soldiers were hiding, waiting for us to start marching before attacking us.
We could see some movement in the distance but we did not notice anything too close. The weather was hot and made it very uncomfortable. The prayers had finished and the Palestinians streamed out of the mosque and immediately covered their faces in keffiyehs and started marching. We waited until they walked past us as we did not want to go to the front for obvious reasons. They started chanting in Arabic – we were later told they were chanting “go away Hitlers.” We joined the protest half way through; there were maybe 200 people in total with probably 30 or so internationals from Spain, Sweden, France, USA and Canada and the Hello Bastards people from South America, Poland and Germany. We marched maybe 50 paces before all hell broke loose. Almost immediately tear gas canisters started coming at us from all directions.
They are supposed to be fired into the air to give people chance to avoid the canisters as they landed as they could kill you if they hit you on the head (one of our hosts Jonathan had previously been hit on the head and had two brain hemorrhages because of this) they are very dangerous. These were being fired directly at us literally at our faces. This would give you a second or two to move out of the way. Almost immediately panic struck, some people scattered in one direction some in others. I looked round and could not see my buddy anywhere; the gas was too thick, throwing up a sort of smoke screen. I made a run for the nearest rocks to allow me to get my head together and work out where I was. I noticed some of the activists were entrenched between rocks further in front. It was impossible to get to them so I had to make a run for it up the hill where I noticed people had managed to escape to. Before I ran I had a quick look to see if I could see any soldiers, I could not. Off I went, almost immediately gas canisters were fired falling nearby, gas was everywhere, I pulled up my scarf and tried to avoid the gas and run for it. I made it but only just.
I was almost on my knees due to the strength of the gas, my eyes were burning and my throat felt like it was on fire. It was unbearable. On top of the rocks I watched the others at the front trying to make a break for it; eventually they made it without any injuries. Back near the starting point of the demo I found my buddy and we collated our thoughts and sought our next plan. All this, while gas canisters were landing everywhere, we were being driven back, it was impossible to stay at our current location. That’s when stun grenades were launched at us and popping sounds, I later found out they were from rubber coated bullets and live rounds.
If I didn’t feel like I was in warzone before, I did now. We retreated back into the village as the front lines were impossible to stay there, gas was everywhere and the wind was in favour of the soldiers. It was at this stage that children many as young as 7 or 8 years took their slingshots and with more courage than any of us combined went to the front and fought the IDF. There were lines of kids, stone after stone being slung at the IDF – they actually drove the IDF back for a time allowing the elders of the village and activists to coordinate at the rear. I had nothing but admiration for the courage of these children. It was at this stage that an experience happened that I will never forget. It was both tragic and beautiful at the same time. A bird (dove) fell right in front of us succumbed from the gas. A Palestinian man picked up the bird and tried to run out of the way of the gas trying to get the bird into clean air. The bird was clinging to life but eventually the gas was too strong. The man and a group of others found a patch of land and dug a hole and buried the bird - they said that the bird was a martyr! Compassion in such circumstances is inspiring.
It was decided to build a barricade blocking the road from a possible incursion into the village by the IDF. We immediately set about finding rocks and other items which could be used. The barricade was almost finished when a group of Palestinians came running towards us gesturing for us to run – we did not hang around! At that point an army jeep seemingly from nowhere and with a loud noise crashed through the barricade. We ran for our lives! I looked around, two soldiers got out of the jeep one with a gun raised straight at me – all I could do was continue running, I was maybe 20 paces from them - at that moment I was just waiting for a bullet in my back. All of a sudden two bullets whizzed past me. One went straight past my right ear, the bullet so close it hissed as it went passed and the other past my right leg. I assume that they were rubber coated bullets as they ricocheted off the wall in front of me and continued bouncing of walls down the street. Seeing what was happening, a Palestinian women opened the door of her house and encouraged us to enter her house for safety until the danger passed.
This game of back and forth attacks continued for many hours until it was time to leave. We had been attacked throughout the day with tear gas, stun grenades, smoke grenades, rubber coated bullets and later we found out, live rounds. Our day had ended, unfortunately for the Palestinians this was just another day of the continued oppression by the Israeli army. They cannot even have a peaceful demonstration on their own land without being attacked and shot at - it’s disgusting! I cannot imagine how people remain so strong and can show such compassion in what is at times a soul destroying situation. The Palestinians were very grateful to the internationals and were given food again as a thank you. Our joy of surviving Ni’lian was soon quashed when we found out that in Hebron a bit further north from where we were, a Palestinian boy of 14 was shot dead during a protest. Our journey home was spent in silence!
Our time in Israel was coming to an end. We had one last obstacle and that was leaving the country which we had been told could be more difficult than entering it. We were asked to show our passports and were questioned 12 times at the airport. We were questioned individually many times, asked whether “we had been to the occupied territories”, “why were we staying in Jaffa” as Jaffa is considered an Arab area among much other harassment. The questioning was incessant. In total it took nearly 2 hours to get through the gates and barely making it onto the plane in time. We later found out that a friend who travelled separately was questioned for 3 hours and banned from returning to the country.
Israel is a complete military state and one that I have no intention of ever going back to again. However, I do aim to go back to Palestine at the earliest opportunity to help fight Israeli fascism with AATW. The work which ATTW and the ISM do is remarkable given the circumstances. Both groups need funding and it is our aim to support them as much as possible by organising benefit gigs, etc. Please check out the AATW website, it is updated almost daily and support them in any way you can. www.awalls.org
PS: 14 people were injured at the demonstration.