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A Teacher and a Farmer from the Occupied Territories

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

For the second time in a week the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) hosted a stirring and educational event. The event was titled: A Farmer in Bil’in, a Teacher in Hebron, the Grassroots Nonviolent Resistance to Israeli Apartheid. Aziza Hasan of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) was the Mistress of Ceremonies.. Sponsors were MPAC, American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), I Witness Peace (IWP), ICSC, and Women in Black (WIB).

Aziza began by saying that the two speakers had a message for their audience, and it was a message of non violence. They wanted to convert their enemies into friends.

Such a conversion is not possible without the presence of justice, and the grave injustices done to Palestinians by the Israeli Occupying Forces would be the topic of this evenings event.

Aziza introduced Karin Pally who had spent four months in he West Bank and who was instrumental in making this event possible.

Karin spoke briefly and presented the first guest, Feryal Abu Haikal, a mother of eleven and the mistress of Qurtuba School in the heart of Hebron’s old city. The school serves 100 students from grades 1 – 10. Some of the most extreme Israeli settlers have taken up residence in Hebron’s old city, and attacks on these school children are frequent. Yet the school remains. Feryal’s home has come under attack as have members of her family. Still, they remain, a shining example of grassroots non violent resistance and, of course, great courage.

Feryal spoke with a power point presentation. The screen showed a map of the area and incursions by Israeli settlements. In effect, the residents in her home town live in a prison staffed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). She pointed to a school and a market that the Israelis had destroyed, and entrances to the old city, all of them closed. “Everything is for the settlers”, she said.

Feryal spoke of the Israeli checkpoints, again illustrated on the screen. People passing through the checkpoints must be scrutinized, even if it is not their first time through the checkpoint that day. This includes women, children and elderly men. People are late for work, school, commercial appointments and medical appointments. This makes no difference to the Israelis.

People who wish to attend the Abraham Mosque must also pass through arduous checkpoints. She pointed to an attack by the settlers on the Palestinians.

Well known activist and International Solidarity Movement leader, Greta Berlin, introduced the next speaker, Mohammed Khatib. He is a leading member of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall. He is the major force behind that city’s two year struggle which seeks to block the construction of Israel’s apartheid Wall on Bil’in’s land and further to block the expansion of a nearby illegal Israeli settlement.

Greta spoke of their work together during the time she was in Bil’in.

Mohammed spoke also against the background of a power point presentation. Now a map was presented and showed the former and current demographic outline of Bil’in. If one picture is worth a thousand words, this illustration was an epic. The audience could see the ghetto that Bil’in had become because of Israeli actions.

The Wall, he continued, was not built for security purposes. The Israelis took land from Bil’in to expand the Jewish settlement of Modi’in Illit. Modi’in Illit will be the largest Jewish settlement on the West Bank, and it will take much needed water from Bil’in.

The audience watch the non violent protests led by the popular Committee against the Wall. IDF soldiers could be seen attacking the protestors. The IDF fired what some protestors thought were projectiles containing salt. A number of the injured protestors showed their wounds which appeared to be extensive and burned into the flesh.

“We weren’t even throwing stones” one of the protesters said.

During a demonstration with disabled persons, many of them in wheel chairs, the IDF soldiers were no less violent in their response, despite the fact that the demonstrators were entirely peaceful.

The audience was permitted to ask questions of the speakers.


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