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Palestine Interview

By staff

Firsthand Report on Growing Resistance

Fight Back!: You traveled to Palestine with a delegation of other people from the U.S. Why did you go?

Tracy Molm: I had the opportunity to hear a lot of firsthand accounts from visiting Palestinians who are fighting to free their country. The resistance of the Palestinian people to the apartheid policies of Israel is incredibly moving and I wanted to see the struggle for myself. So I decided to join the delegation of Internationals for Justice in Palestine, which was hosted by Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and a student group at Birzeit University. We traveled to Jenin, Nabulus, Tulkarem, Ramallah, Haifa and a number of other towns and villages.

Fight Back!: What kind of conditions do Palestinians face under the occupation?

Tracy Molm: There are travel restrictions, restrictions on movement. There are checkpoints everywhere. People are forced to wait for hours just in order to get to their jobs or to sell their produce at markets or to go to school. The Israelis try to humiliate you. I saw people treated like cattle. Soldiers steal from people. They harass women. Palestinians are detained for hours, without justification.

Palestinians are hounded by poverty. In some villages there is 80% unemployment. Restriction of movement – checkpoints and road closings has made things worse. In refugee camps, it’s not uncommon for 20-plus people to be living in a small home.

Agriculture is being destroyed. Israeli forces uproot the olive groves and cut people off from their lands. They confiscate farmland for ‘security’ and to expand Israeli settlements.

Fight Back!: Israel is building a wall. How is this impacting on the Palestinian people? How are the Palestinian people responding?

Tracy Molm: The apartheid wall being built is basically creating a prison for the Palestinians in the West Bank. It is being used to take even more land from Palestinians, despite agreements that had somewhat solidified the borders for the West Bank. For example, a town called Jayyous in the northern part of the West Bank had 80% of their land stolen – all of it olive groves that support the people.

Additionally the wall cuts Palestinian towns from Jerusalem. Although Jerusalem is supposed to be a neutral city, where Palestinians and Israelis share the capital, building the wall steals the capital from the Palestinian people.

Palestinians respond to the apartheid wall in many ways. When I was there I saw several places that people had burned tires and written graffiti on the wall. I also met with Palestinians that work to document the violence that has happened because of the wall and the continued violence that happens at the wall because of the constant watch by Israeli soldiers that are heavily armed. Lastly I was able to meet with representatives of Al Hoq, a group that does work to document and educate people about the collective punishment measures that Israel is using against Palestinians, even though it is illegal by international law. They have a large campaign going around the apartheid wall and the devastation it has created.

Fight Back!: You were there during the hunger strike. What where the issues and what kind of support did it get?

Tracy Molm: The hunger strike was big. Over 4500 prisoners in over a dozen prisons all over a country where the Palestinian people aren’t allow to travel freely, were able to coordinate a hunger strike that allowed them to demand their rights. They were demanding rights like the ability to have family visits, and that during those visits that they be allow to touch and hold their friends and loved ones, the right to clean food, the elimination of humiliating and random naked searches. These are just a few of the demands that the prisoners were willing to give up their food for for 20-plus days.

What was equally impressive, though, was that every town and village had a solidarity tent. And many places had between five and twenty people who were going without food in solidarity with the political prisoners. In general the strike had big support everywhere because everyone knows someone or is related to someone who has been imprisoned.

Fight Back!: There are many kinds of resistance to the occupation. What are some of the main forms?

Tracy Molm: Continuing to have children and live in Palestine despite the occupation and the Israeli goal to rid the area of Palestinians, is resistance. Also Palestinians continue to resist by building offices and social services that will help them continue to live on their land. While I was there we were able to meet with the Palestinian Health and Work Committees. They have worked to give health coverage to all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

One of the other main forms of resistance is militant resistance.

Fight Back!: ‘Suicide bombing’ or martyrdom operations have caused a lot of controversy in the West. What was the attitude of Palestinian people towards this?

Tracy Molm: Palestinians always refer to this type of action as martyrdom bombings, which is very telling for how it is viewed by the people. Because of the checkpoints and the wall, one of the few militant methods that continues to show results is martyrdom bombings.

In general, anyone who resists the occupation, especially militantly, is viewed as someone who is truly free by the Palestinian people.

Fight Back!: So how are the Israeli authorities dealing with the growing resistance?

Tracy Molm: Automatically, whenever there is armed resistance, the resister’s house is demolished and the town that the resister is from is put under curfew for at least one day. The family of the resister faces harassment and threats by the military, especially at checkpoints. Cities and villages that have a lot of resistance, like Nabulus, have many settlements surrounding them, have the worst checkpoint violence, and have the most Israeli military presence.

Fight Back!: The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is one of the most important organizations fighting to free Palestine. What kind of presence did you see from the PFLP?

Tracy Molm: The PFLP is a very dynamic group, and unlike any other group they have invested much of their work into the building of Palestinian civil society, so they work very hard to help Palestinians get educated and to develop social programs that will continue to develop the society. Thus I think their strength cannot just be measured in numbers but also must look at their integral role in Palestinian society and I think that is very strong right now.

I also was able to see that they had a marked presence at all of the hunger strike tents, with many of their members being imprisoned and much support for them as an important part of the Palestinian struggle. This presence could especially be seen at the three demonstrations that I was a part of. One was a memorial for the late PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa. Although the demonstration was a remembrance of that great leader’s assassination three years ago, the march included many people from many groups who were part of the hunger strike.

Fight Back!: Did people in Palestine talk about U.S. aid to Israel?

Tracy Molm: Oh yes, we were lucky to meet with refugees from the largest refugee camp in the West Bank – Balata. When asked what they would want us to bring home and tell people in the U.S. they told us overwhelmingly that they want us to work to end the foreign aid coming from the United States. Refugees are the people who have seen the effects of our aid, in the forced removal of Palestinians from villages and the continued violence and oppression that they face daily. And other Palestinians we met with also told us how we need to act against U.S. military aid that allows the occupation of Palestine to continue.

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