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A call to action from besieged Ramallah:
"Raise your voices right now"

April 5, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7

TOUFIC HADDAD is a Palestinian living in Ramallah and co-editor of the left-wing journal Between the Lines. He spoke with Socialist Worker as Israeli soldiers besieged Yasser Arafat's compound not far from his home.

BEGINNING AT 3 a.m. on Friday morning, the tanks started rolling in. They had plans to enter Ramallah for a while, and so the bombing in Netanya turned out to be a good pretext for them.

It's difficult to describe, but nothing at all is normal here. As of the early morning, we lost electricity. There was a complete and deafening silence on the streets. We could hear tanks rolling around in the neighborhood, then sniper here and there, and then heavy artillery fire.

Five people were killed inside the PA's headquarters on Friday. Soldiers went into houses in the neighborhood near there, and they've been arresting lots of people--completely terrorizing people. I know one place where they started banging on the door at 5 a.m., and when the person opened it, he had 20 M-16s in his face.

Then they started beating him--this 55-year-old man. And then his wife, who's an American citizen. She said that she wanted to call the U.S. consulate, and they twisted her arm and almost broke it. Then they started pissing on the floors, they hurled the VCR across the room and fucked up the TV.

On Saturday, they took over a local television station and began broadcasting porno films. They're simply demented--I don't know how else to explain it.

They've called up 20,000 extra reservists to do "special missions" that they've got planned. Their goal is to completely humiliate Arafat, who--to his credit--is being resilient and an inspiration to the people of Ramallah. He's keeping the flame alive and saying that we'll never bend to this kind of terrorism.

Everybody knew this was coming, and everyone went out and stocked up on food and other supplies. We don't know how long it's going to be, but it could be weeks.

The whole society is paralyzed. You can't do anything with 200 tanks moving through the streets. They're more or less shooting at anything that moves.

There's very little resistance, because there's not much that can be done right now. But the biggest problem for Sharon is that Palestinians still believe in the Intifada--and that resistance is the way to ending Israel's occupation and achieving Palestinian rights to a state, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land and the right to be free of colonialism.

And people are willing to pay the very high cost that this entails--they know it will take a while until Israel is defeated.

Israel has personified the conflict in the figure of Yasser Arafat, as if he's the be-all, end-all of everything that is happening. This is, of course, not the case and completely de-legitimizes the fact that the Intifada is a popular uprising supported by the population.

The armed resistance groups conducting operations against Israel have a lot of support, because this is the best way that people can see to secure their rights. That's because for 35 years, people feel like they've tried every other option, and nothing has ever worked.

There's a very strong sense of solidarity and national unity. And there's a sense that the Arab world--at least the governments--is betraying the cause. They haven't cut their relations with Israel--they're just fudging it.

The Arab summit was the minimum thing that they could have done--and should have done a long time ago. But there's a lot of solidarity among Arab people in the region, who we expect to put pressure on their governments.

It's crucial to convey the message in the U.S. that this is an incredibly important time. We're approaching the witching hour. We're on the edge of some very big changes. They could kill Arafat tonight--that's not completely out of the question.

If there's a time for solidarity action, it has to be at its strongest right now, because the situation is so grave. We feel exposed and helpless and unable to do anything--and Israel with its overwhelming military might feels like it can come in and crush anything.

All people of conscience have a responsibility right now to raise their voices in the strongest possible manner.

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