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Inside West Bank Refugee Camp/ISM

Refugee Camps and Lock down

For several days I have stayed in the Blata Refugee Camp just outside of the city of Nablus. Most of the people here have came after being evacuated from the area of Jaifa. Most of the "suicide bombers" come from refugee camps and 16 have come from Blata this year.

On Wendsday several ISM volunteers stood with the Palestinian youth (shabab) as they met the two Isreali tanks with resistnace and threw rocks at the edge of the camp. For several hours of back and forth dozens of youth were able to keep Isreali tanks out of the camp simply through their numbers and will. One person was shot in the leg and one 17 year old, Y, suffered from shrapnel cutting his temple as he sat a few yards away from me.

You walk through the main street and there are no signs of American flags or Christian facists posing. No need for car insurance billboards or towering crucifixes. The only signs of martyrs are cut out family photos of Arab men with mustaches dangling around the necks of children. Martyr posters are plastered all over the camp as well as in Nablus, in alleys, on store fronts, in cafes and framed in families' living rooms. Four of us have been staying in a martyr house of member of the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades. I fall asleep on the roof drinking tea and keeping track of the amount of tanks roving by the house.

This morning I wake up early from the strong sun on the roof and make my way downstairs. I find myself by the kitchen where a mother, a bit hefty and with short hair, has her face buried in her arms sobbing at the kitchen table. I can't do much when she looks up other than offering her a cigarette from the sofa and I walk back to the roof to bring my stuff down.

A son , L, tells me its not safe on the roof anymore and there are several Isreali snipers several meters away. FULL CURFEW. The streets are empty of civilians and the tanks have saturated the streets. Hours drag. How many times can you reread passages of GERMINAL, how many times can you sweep the floor, how many times can you look out of the window after the house shakes from Isreali tank shells. Pacing back and forth, refilling water bottles and emptying ashtrays. A Palestinian youth staring out of the window at Isreali snipers laying on rooftops. 11 a.m...2 P.M....4 P.M....Peering through blinds thinking of the day he can take out one of these motherfuckers and thinking of being able to get a drink of water without Isreali sewage bursting through the pipes.

Isreali m-16 butts pound on the metal door two floors below. The first question they ask is are there any Americans up there? They come up stairs a little bewildered to see 4 internationals sitting in this Palestinian home. The soldiers scour the room and the women try to calm the babies from crying. One soldier detects a Japanese Ism volunteer has been filming the break in the entire time. There is a scuffle over the film and the soldiers put the volunteer in cuffs. The soldiers search our bags and confiscate all of our film. The volunteer is eventually uncuffed and able to sit down. The soldiers glance at the Palestinian's i.d's and ask about photos on the wall. After 20 minutes the soldiers say good bye and the family cleans the spilt tea. One of the brothers who pretended not to understand Hebrew said he overheard the soldiers say " there's Internationals here lets get this over with quick". He then explained most times when soldiers come inside they beat Palestinian men, especially if they are injured, and would have checked on their I. D's. I hug, L, glad to see we prevented him going off to jail for 20 years.



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