Mohammed stands firm

Pubblichiamo un’intervista realizzata dal nostro volontario  del progetto Youth Mediocracy Makers a Mohamed Barakat, Presidente del Disabled Without Borders Organization di Nabi Samuel.

Palestine. A territory in which occupation has been established from more than 68 years now, remains under threat despite the Oslo “peace” Accords I and II signed in 1993 and 1995. The use of violence and the harassment by the Israeli Army and Police is a daily reality here, and it does not seem like is going to stop anytime soon.
A group of youngsters, coordinated by ARCI culture and solidarity association (ARCS Italy), went to find out more about the Palestinian people life conditions, under the banner of a project called “Youth Mediocracy Makers” that aim to push the democratic process by spreading news using the new media which young people use every day (social network, smart-phones, blogs).
The program was implemented in collaboration with the Youth Development Department (YDD) of Jerusalem a non-governmental non-profit organization that aim to empower young people and raise the awareness of the community about different aspects of the young Palestinians life conditions.
In this case, we went to Nabi Samuel, a Palestinian village located on the top hill of the highest mountain around Jerusalem that has been an occupation scenario since 1967 .
Here we found people who are resisting on a daily basis not by the use of weapons, but by the only mean they have: Stay despite every mistreatment.
In this village lives Mohammed Barakat, a leader in the Human Rights field and Chairman of “Disabled without Borders Organization – Palestine” and Chairman of the Department for Persons with Disabilities within Fatah Foreign Affairs Commission.
Despite his health conditions force him to stay in his bed all day he never left the fight, he is always ready to denounce every violation towards what he call the indigenous people: The Palestinian.
We stepped in Mohammed house shyly and found a warm welcome, given us by Mohammed’s brother Hisham and his nephew. Mohammed was lying on his bed but despite his health condition an amazing strength could be seen in his eyes. He started speaking, breaking the ice, asking our names and other things. Then we explained the aim of our project and suddenly the conversation turned into a political argument.
I was fascinated by his words and his experiences so I decided to write down an interview about his life and his works as a Human Rights defender in Palestine and especially in Nabil Samuel Village where the situation has already reached a climax.
Mohammed started saying : “No one can imagine it, we are forbidden from all services, we’re not even allowed to pave the only road we have . When you see the settlements, they have all kind of services, modern facilities and they are built on our land but we, as indigenous people, are not allowed to do anything on our land. So, this is the international injustice, because the international community is unjust, really not fair.
Now, as a result of the construction of the separating wall, we are in a no land, we have to go through the only checkpoint every time we want to go somewhere. We have only one road to go to Ramallah and we must go through the checkpoint, we are completely isolated from our neighboring villages. We are not even allowed to enter Jerusalem because we all have Palestinian Identity cards we don’t even have a checkpoint to go to Jerusalem from Nabi Samuel .
So in order to reach Ramallah, for example, we can’t go via Jerusalem but we have to go from Al Jeeb ( to take the long way around Jerusalem, basically) and this is another plight, that checkpoint is a daily plight. Not even my brother – who has been living in Spain for a longtime now and owns a Spanish passport that allows him to go through every Israeli checkpoint – can enter this one, this one here is exclusive for us, the people of Nabi Samuel, the registered ones” .

ME: “So why have you been isolated this way ? What’s the reason for it ?”

MOHAMMED : “The reason for it ?! They want to implement their belief, they want land without people for people without land! They want us to leave, simple as that. Now, for example we don’t have a school, we just have one room that we use as school for all the children of the village , we don’t even have a small clinic or any medical unit, we don’t have a shop or anything, so what does it mean ?”

ME: “What happen every time you want to do something? Even going to the supermarket seems hard with this restrictions”

MOHAMMED: “It is hard. I told you from the very beginning we can’t do anything. We can’t build anything, we can’t even put a tent, we are not allowed.
We set a tent last year for the summer camp, on the very next day an Israeli officer came and order us to remove this tent immediately and took the case to the court. I personally sent this case to the President of Human Rights Council. This is the Israeli democracy, the so called defenders of human rights, really, something cruel.
We depend on people to make a change, in the streets, in public opinion, through medias because people need to see the truth, we are living like in the 14th century.
Nabil Samuel is on the top hill of the highest mountain in Jerusalem, a key position, so it was targeted since 1967 to the date, they did many things, they even divided our historical building which contained our mosque, they are now seizing about 90% of the old building, they established a synagogue for them and left a one room space for us to be used as a mosque”.

ME:”So, did they take 90% of the building to build a synagogue instead of the former mosque?”

MOHAMMED:”Yes, settlers are coming here 24/7, also in 1971 they demolished exactly 46 houses, we know more than 100 people lost their houses and they don’t allow us to build anything new, not even a kitchen, we are limited and restricted, and it all has just one aim : to get rid of us and send us away!”.

ME: “When was the last time you went to Jerusalem?”

MOHAMMED: “Personally, I can’t go to Jerusalem because of my Palestinian identity card[1]. Sometime they issue some permission for special occasion or extreme need, but it is hard to get. For me, for example they never issued a permit, not even for treatment, and I am Quadriplegic, so even if I want to explode myself, I can’t do it on my own, you know?! (laughs). so what kind of threat can I pose to the Israeli security?
This is the truth, they are discriminating us, they do not want peace, they want us to leave, nothing more than that. They think they are the chosen people, what kind of God gives you the right to do that, to mistreat other people and force them out from the place they live in?

ME: “Do you have restriction on maintenance works or restructurings?”

MOHAMMED: “Some kind of maintenance works and restorations are allowed as long as they are internal, but when it comes to add something is all forbidden. Not even a kitchen on your own land, in your own house since 1967…”

ME : “What do you think about the Palestinian Government (Fatah)?”

MOHAMMED :”I want to tell you the truth, our government is restricted and handcuffed. For example, they provide us twice the project to pave this street, but we still need a permit from the Israeli authority and they stop us every time. The problem here is that everything is linked to Israel so we can’t do anything without their permission. This is the plight”.

ME: “Have you ever received any kind of support from other Arabs countries?”

MOHAMMED:”They are dead. They are not alive, especially now they are into their own problems, internal problems. We depend on Europeans a million times more than Arabs countries. We need free people and a free world, we need democracy, we depend on that to be heard, to mobilize, to inform and to make people know that in this world there are people who are restricted and oppressed”.

Then ALESSIA, one girl of our group stood up and asked : “if you could tell something to the new generations, what would you say? What is the message you want to send ?”

“As a message for all the generation especially for the new ones, which are our great hope, is to watch the reality with real eyes and not through the Israeli media and propaganda. Me, as the Chairman of Disabled without Borders Organization, I traveled worldwide, we have many activities and last year, for example, I was attending the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneve.
I saw how people should be treated and the only thing we are seeking is peace, nothing strange, we need peace in the Holy Land, it used to be a land of peace, and not peace as the Israeli put it, cause in reality they are against all form of peace.
I want to tell you more, here in Palestine we have at least 85 people with severe disabilities in Israeli jails, no one imagine that, but I have all the files and I am in touch with the HRC, the UN and different Human Rights organizations . They are suffering a lot, a lot of them have several disabilities and several sicknesses, they need surgery and serious medical intervention, but the Israeli only provide them with painkillers. They need treatment and no one is taking care of them. We succeeded in the HRC, to convince them and the UN, that we need an urgent fact-finding mission to report the issue and investigate on it.
It was one year ago, they came to visit but no mission was announced or implemented.

ME : “Do you really think that the UN could work effectively on this issue?
We all know the divisions and the different political aims inside the UNSC, and I think we are all aware of the U.S. interest in hiding certain aspects of the Israeli occupation”.

MOHAMMED: “Our issue is not a political one, we are talking about Human Rights.
We are always shouting that we have no political aim, we are human rights defenders, that’s our issue. So no political evaluation should enter in the argument, human rights need to be respected” .

ME: “Since the media coverage of the Palestinian struggle is not full and surely not equal, what do you really need to make your voice heard by the world?”

MOHAMMED: “We depend on people, young people, youth movements, NGO’s among other organizations because with their help, society can put pressure on their own governments”.

ME: “What do you think about the Israeli new generations? Have they grown up with same kind of mentality as their forefathers or is there any hope for a change?”

MOHAMMED: “I don’t really have a big hope. Because they are becoming more and more extremists, really. We, the Palestinians, are not against any religion, Palestine is for all people of all religions, we are not fighting against Jewish, we are fighting against occupation!
They are extremists, they are creating and supporting extremisms even in our own society. As you can see they don’t want any kind of peace, any partnership, they just don’t want Palestinians in this land!

ME: “Or maybe they could be seeking an enemy to justify their oppression”

MOHAMMED: “Yes, exactly. If Israel stands in peace the Israeli system will collapse, because they founded their own community and their own society on racism .
Look, we are crying and shouting against what Isis is doing in these months, because it is a criminal organization, but the Israeli are doing the same things. Nobody, no human feeling at all can support what ISIS is doing, as nobody should support what the settlers are doing to us: killing, hanging and burning”.

ME: “Do you really think there can be a peaceful solution for the Palestinian struggle? I know you are a human rights defender and probably a pacifist, but after 65 years of occupation, do you really think that a solution can be reached by pacific means ?”

MOHAMMED: “If you want the reality, we were believing that but we became hopeless, because when you see them, our counterpart, they became more extremist and they never stopped abusing us .
I believe in a 2 states solution, but they don’t want it, even though all the people worldwide are supporting it.
But as you can see if they don’t want such a solution they will not respect any resolution taken to reach that goal”.

ME: “Just as they did with the Oslo Accords, so what is the point of making peaceful agreements when we all know they are not going to respect them? What is the point of issuing a UN resolution, when there is nobody here to check if that resolution is effective on the territory ?”

MOHAMMED: “Peace is a necessity for all people of all religions, but they cannot respect any resolution and this is only creating more extremism, even in our society, and what do you think the result will be?
Another war, another bloodshed and more killings […] You know there is many kind of resistance, for example we believe in the peaceful resistance, even though I don’t really know until when we are going to stand it”.

ME: “I am not a war supporter myself, I am the first one saying that violence only brings more violence, but from what I see the situation has already reached a climax …”

MOHAMMED: “ You know… I want to tell you the last thing, I don’t believe in what the Israeli say : security will bring peace. It is not true because only justice will bring peace, so until the time justice will be established in the holy land there will be no peace”.

A cura di Sickforfreedom

[1] To access Jerusalem, Palestinians have to hold an Israeli ID which was only given to those who lived in certain areas of the city after the 1976.

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