01 February 2007

Transcript of Friday Sermon

Palestine. Dec 2006

Where to start? Everyone knows a little. Since my last visit in 2005, expected things to have gotten better. But the opposite is the case.

You can’t help but come back depressed from Palestine. The first few days are shocking- but you get used to it. After three weeks of checkpoints, interrogation and a detainment, all I wanted to do was get out. It seems like a hopeless situation, but the people’s attitude is what gives me hope. As the slogan on the wall reminds you all the time- to exist is to resist.

Your first encounter with Israeli Occupation Forces is getting in. The border ordeal- the whole day, from 9am till past 6pm, continuous interrogation, searches, harassment, ‘drying out’. The idea, as I experienced before, is to make you go home and tell people, don’t go and visit Palestine- but believe me, its worth going through the border hell. The people appreciate you being there to help.

The questions they ask indicate that they just want to make things difficult coz you’re a Muslim- Are you Muslim? Do you pray? Do want to visit Al-Aqsa? I answer yes to all these questions but eventually do get in. So what’s the point! Oh, and the best question- Are you carrying any weapons?!

I joined a local youth organisation. Their concern is the development of the youth. The land will still be there in a 100 years time, but even if they get the land tomorrow, what use is it if the youth are messed up? The youth face the same challenges that youth all over the world face, together with the occupation. And the occupation is the priority at the moment. What will happen tomorrow?

The Occupation
The Apartheid Wall, Checkpoints, Road blocks. Each one is a lecture on its own. And behind each one of these elements of the occupation, there are millions of sad stories- each one maybe small in their own right, but put together it just adds up to an unbelievable nightmare!

Refugee camps
I lived in a camp for a few days. When you hear refugee camp you probably think tents, dust and a temporary place. But not in Palestine. No tents, but now closely built homes. No place for kids to play- but across the valley, kids in settlements play in swimming pools and soccer fields.

The camps were originally tents. People moved here thinking it was temporary. So much so, that a key is the symbol of refugee camps. The keys of homes that people left during the Nakba. Coz people held on to them in hope. They are still holding on. Some even had their bags packed and ready for a few years.

Tents were replaced with four walls. Few years later people had to move a story up. And then another. Very few foundations can take the forth story that many now need. And they build all this on land that they don’t own.

Land was leased by UN for 99 years. Almost 60 years gone. Will the lease expire with these people still refugees? And then what they ask?

UN is supposed to provide education, health and other services. So the PA does none. Reality is that the UN can’t always provide it all. Results- people die coz of lack of healthcare. Education and unemployment are serious problems in refugee camps.

19 camps in West Bank. Over 200 000 people in West Bank Camps, half a million moved into other towns and cities. And there are 50+ such camps in Gaza and the rest of the Middle East.

Political fighting, unacceptable. Scary at times witnessing internal fighting. And all this makes the Israelis really happy. Something for us to think about...

Built all over the West Bank. Have their own roads- doesn’t say no Palestinians- but that what it means!
Subsidised living. Up to three times cheaper living in a settlement as opposed to living in elsewhere.. And they make sure the settlers can’t see much. These are economic settles.

Israeli industrial parks also built all over the West Bank. West Bank feels like a big prison. Produce, goods, exported all over the world. Sold to people like us and used to support the occupation. The same farmer, whose land was stolen to grow grapes and avocadoes, can’t even get the produce her grows on his small back yard to the market in Ramallah. Yet the produce grown on his stolen land, irrigated with stolen water, is sitting on the shelves of our local supermarkets!

In Palestine a saw people homeless, because their homes were destroyed by the Israelis. But their neighbours took them in and cared for them.
I saw people hungry, because the international community has placed sanctions on them for exercising the democratic act of voting. But their neighbours, who had a little food, fed them.
I saw kids who became orphans because their parents were killed by the occupation, or sent to prison for resisting it. But the neighbours once again took care of these kids.

Here in South Africa we have freedom, democracy and opportunity. We enjoy many things that Palestinians only dream about today. And we should be doing everything in our power to assist them- boycotts, sanctions, solidarity and the rest.

But what are we doing for our neighbours here? Thos who are homeless, hungry, orphaned and suffering? Are we helping them like how the Palestinians help each other? Are we removing their suffering?


Ali la Loca said...

I was just reading in the news this morning about increasing pressure in SA to boycott Israeli produce coming into supermarkets, especially avocados. The article cited slave-like conditions where Palestinain workers are made to work for Israeli companies picking the fruit for pennies a day. I will be interested to see if there is any formal action taken in the coming months, especially given the historical alliances between the ANC and the PLO.

I enjoyed reading about your trip, very interesting to hear a first-hand account.

Fatima said...

I've been waiting for this post for some time :)

I go through the articles on a daily basis, the situation saddens me every single second I wish that there was something MORE that could be done.

I applaud you for going over there to help, I wish I could do the same someday..inshAllah.

Btw, Spar sells those nasty Avo's too! Grr! Rather get avo's from Woolies. I don't think they're being supplied from Israel.

Haseena said...

woolworths does sell israeli avos -the best thing to do is check on the pack or ask the manager if you unsure.. kewl article bilal

Bilal said...

@ali la loca:
Thanks for stopping by!
Lets hope that we can do something to stop this madness! Its not just the avocados- its grapes, oranges and IT stuff as well...

Is is not my report back- just the lecture I gave in Musjidul Islam last Friday. The report back is still in the pipeline!
We need to do whatever we can- start by making people aware I suppose...

True- its all over the country! People need to know what suffering they are contributing towards by just buying fruit and veg!
& thanks- real article still under construction...

bibi-aisha said...

Spar also sells israeli cucumbers.so much is goin thru my mind nw-memories of bein turnd away at border,the horrible conditns of pal ref camps in lebanon,egypt n jordans support of israel,our increasin apathy in sa,frustration at wot to do,hope in rem ppl i met firm faith in qadr allah.wen wil the madness end?wot sacrifices wil we make?

Haseena said...

came across this while surfing the net:

"The connection was the utter stupidity of the "Lets boycott Israel lobby!"They sit around organising their campaign on computers with intel processors (developed in israel), running Windows (whose core technology was developed in Israel) - and saying no one should support Israel! Lets see them start by all switching to AMD based chips (oops- they also have R&D in Israel), or Motorola based chips (whoops- their R&D is also in ISrael). Hmm, guess they just going to have to use the phone- I just hope none of them are using Motorolla cell phones while they do it! Lets also hope none are too heavily into their hydroponically grown organic food, after all, thats another Israeli development."http://forum.mg.co.za/showflat.phpCat=&Number=1801753748&Main=1801750056

- what are we going to do about it? I felt sick just reading that

Zahera said...

Its a sad state of affairs, what amazes me whenever i read the accounts of the Palestinians is their faith in Allah and their strength to keep going! They have
such resolve, so much persistence, so much patience and above everything- so much hope!

SubhanAllah they are an inspiration to us all to the realities of the world- we sit comfortably in our homes, eating what we like, sleeping where we like, going where we like without any restrictions; these people dont know whether they will be alive to see the sun rising the next morning.

I think inshaAllah we should try and do whatever we can, as little as it may seem!
Looking forward to the lengthy update bilal :-) Thankyou for sharing your experiences.

almira said...

I did not know it was that bad in Palestine, all those ridiculous check points, reminds of the police here in Vegas. Someday Insha'Allah things will be much diffrent brother. It is good to see that you have joined a positive organization. Good post!

Bilal said...

@bb aisha:
The stolen goods of the oppressors are all over- we need to be wary!
What are we going to do? I hope all we can!

Its sad but true- we need to get organised and really try to make change. Our priority is to stop the suffering- thats our obligation. We are anti-oppression, anti-occupation and anti-suffering...

To Exist is to Resist- that slogan from all over the Apartheid Wall really sums it up!
Lets start today, start now- think about how we can help...

Thats the problem- nobody knows what suffering continues to happen- even a few km's away in Israel, most people have no idea how others are suffering so badly!