"Don't shoot! We are international human rights observers! We are unarmed civilians!" But, the shootings continued, the Israeli jeeps insisted their way, the whizzing sounds of bullets passing by us ringing in our ears. For around thirty minutes, around eleven activists from Canada, Britain, Australia, Greece, Italy, Palestine and Lebanon, four journalists from Italy, and around five farmers from ‘Abasan area of Gaza stood face-to-face with what seemed like a crashing storm of bullets heading our way from around 100 metres away from the Eatern borders with Sderot. The farmers lay low, bodies against the dry earth of a hot noon, near them the Italian journalists crouching on their knees, and some with hands covering their heads. Eight activists, including myself, stood with hands parallel to our chests, wide open, revealing an unarmed body, and a persistent spirit. They shoot again. "Don't Shoot!" a comrade screams through the mega phone. But, the answer is more shots.
The F16 planes with their high air resistance had, moments before the firing, been drawing white circular shapes like smiles in the clear blue of the sky. Four I.O.F jeeps parked adjacent to one another, with snipers pointing out, shooting randomly at the dirt around us. "If someone is hurt, please do not rush to them. Stay put in your place!" says a comrade on my right. We stick to our positions, standing, looking straight ahead. I am holding my notebook in my right hand, and am afraid to get shot at if I bend down and place it in my bag. My hands grow tired, but I turn to smile at comrades on my left and on my right. "Will my smile be provocative? Will me white teeth pose a threat to their security?" I ask myself amidst the whirlwind of shootings around me. After we continue screaming through the mega phone for the shootings to stop, a calm minute passes. Two comrades come by my side, and then the shootings continue again. We freeze. It is loud, and it whizzes by one's ear. For someone who has lived the July 2006 war in Lebanon, and this war on Gaza, I thought that no confrontation with death will frighten me. But, I discover my virginity in the issue of shootings. As if the F16, F35, F15, Apache, White Phosphorous, and surveillance planes rockets were not enough, I now add on to my war expertise, the Israeli Occupation Forces' border jeep bullets. My defloration did not go by smoothly though, for yet again, the IOF strike again, with the same, redundant element of surprise technique, as it did the first day, 50 metres away from me in its striking of the Preventive Security Compound, know as the Mujammaa' El Amn El Wiqaei, in the Abraj Street of the Tal el Hawa area in Gaza city.
It has been quite a while now since the International Solidarity Movement activists have been accompanying farmers and fishermen alike in their quest for breadwinning. The activists as nationals of Western countries, provide their bodies as human shields, holding on to an identity of "European" or "American" to provide security for the lives of those less privileged of such titles: those Palestinians, which seemingly have a cheaper existence.
The farmers have acres of land near the borders of which they solely depend on for survival. We accompanied them today as they ploughed parsley they wished to sell of which any benefit attained provides for around 15 families. On that land, spinach, cabbage, eggplant, pepper, and wheat is planted. It used to include orchards of olive trees, and other citric fruits; however, they were uprooted by the Israeli Occupation Forces' tractors and tanks during previous attacks.
"Every time we pull ourselves to work and walk the line, they strike us again, breaking us. But, we rise again... and again, they strike" says Abu Mohammad. The land stands like a human body: can rape and violation of one's body not be resisted? Why should land be succumbed? Why should land not be fought for? It is a right to every people to fight for their land and their right to live dignified on it. The farmers demanded that they be capable of coming to their land without any accompaniment: "will the next generations need to be dependent on a group of foreigners in order to work on their land?"
After the hustle and bustle of the bullets and shots of today, I read the news of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union's decision to refuse the loading off of products of an Israeli shipment. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions considered this to be a historical moment of our modern times, one reminiscent of the Danish dock workers actions of 1963 in their refusal to accept products from a shipment sent by the Apartheid South African state which lead to the snowballing of the boycotting of the aforementioned Apartheid state in Europe and elsewhere. The isolation of the Apartheid Israeli state by its boycotting has just been triggered by its recent massacre in Gaza.
As the sun sets against the dense, humid air of Gaza, we smell the rising tales of yet another aggression worse than its predecessor... "They want to implement Operation Cutting Red Roses[the coming IOF operation in Gaza]... are there any red roses left in Gaza for them to cut? There are only black ones in Gaza now..." says an old taxi cab driver, as we pass by the tales of 61 years of grazing of dreams.
Natalie Abou Shakra
Tuesday February 3, 2009