I'm proud to be a
Sussex University student
May 05, 2002
By Candide Kirk
So today I went to a discussion group organised by the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and some Sussex University students who
had ventured into Ramallah during the latest incursions on a humanitarian
trip. The idea behind the meeting was for the students to discuss
their experiences out there (I also found out that the main organisers
were the Socialist Labour Party).So anyway we got there and there
was a really good turnout... very few arabs though which I still
can't decide whether it's a bad thing (since these English
people are more interested in our cause than we apparently are),
or whether it was a good thing since so many English people ARE
interested enough to show up on a perfectly sunny bank holiday weekend!
Anyway to the point...
After a brief introduction by the SLP guy there... a man from the
Palestine Solidarity Campaign talked about their work here and how
to join and help out... then cleared the floor for the Sussex students.
First off it was our student union president Dan Glazebrook...he
gave an excellent talk about their experience... how they were harrassed
as soon as they reached Ben Gurion airport because some had arabic
sounding surnames, and because they were meeting Palestinian students
on their visit... how the harrassment at the airport was cut short
by the arrival of a group of 250 Italian peace activists wearing
the Palestinian flag on their T-Shirts!!
Anyway.. then their Palestinian driver took them to Jerusalem...
and on the way pointed out all the villages that used to be before
being reduced to rubble in 1948 (and further along the way in 1967)...
he also told them how he had been imprisoned and tortured during
the first intifada for the criminal act of joining a demonstration..
then they met an 8 year old boy who proudly showed them his bullet
scars in his stomache... nothing new for you and me but quite shocking
for my English friends... the students decided to go to Ramallah
because they sensed that an invasion was iminent... now I have to
mention here that amond the Sussex students there was an Israeli
born Jewish girl - Karen Wheeler - who I respect so much for making
the trip with the students. Anyway.. once in Ramallah the boys stayed
with some members of the Medical Relief Committee (MRC) while the
girls stayed with a Palestinian student who lived roughly 400m away
from Arafat's headquarters. Two days after they got there the
incursion began... tanks moved in at six in the morning and since
the MRC ambulances had all been confiscated the guys felt helpless
watching Al Jazeera to get news of what's happening outside their
windows. Dan talked a lot about Al Jazeera and the excellent coverage
which the UK does not and will never see... he talked about
the man in Bethlehem locked into his bathroom with his six children
with the bodies of his mother and brother rotting since no one could
get to them to help... when the ambulances were finally returned
the guys helped packing food and medicine and riding around in ambulances
distributing to the people in Ramallah... he talked about how they
would get stopped every half hour and detained for up to four hours..
how the medicine and food was often confiscated and thrown away..
how only 2% of the parcels they packed got to the families of Ramallah!
Dan and the guys also went to help out at a hospital, and when they
asked if they could donate blood, the doctor laughed and said that
blood was available and there was no shortage.. but that it was
useless because there was no way to get the injured into the hospitals
in the first place...
Salma Karmi, a student of Palestinian origin, spoke next. Her experiences
were different in Ramallah since she, along with the other two girls,
were trapped in the flat they were staying in with no electricity
and hence no TV to even know what was going on. However, as she
put it, the IDF did her the favour that, instead of going out looking
for action, the action came to visit. The girls were woken up early
morning by around ten IDF soldiers. The girls, still in their pyjamas
and obviously harmless, were ordered to sit in the living room floor.
The Israeli girl with them obviously caused offence by being there
to show support to the Palestinians, and was therefore used as a
human shield to go into the rooms of the house. She was told that
if they found anyone hiding in any of the rooms she would be the
first to get shot. When the soldiers couldn't find anything in the
flat they started going some holiday pictures they found and demanding
to know who is in the pictures (obviously clueless as to what they
were supposed to be doing - looking for any excuse to make trouble).
Then the soldiers made Karen walk in front of them while they searched
the flat upstairs, where they looted 3000 US Dollars in cash, a
watch, and some other belongings. Salma then talked about the reactions
they received when they returned, she pointed out how the media
distorted their story and made it seem like they were crying for
their parents and the consulate to get them out of there... while
in reality they wished they could stay longer and do more.
Next in line was an Indian guy who I've seen on campus talking
against the sanctions in Iraq... a real activist... he spoke about
how amazed he was by the spirit of the Palestinians.. which refused
to be defeated into submission... how when the curfew was lifted
for a couple of hours one day, people almost looked celebratory...
how we could all learn from this proud people... how the intifada
wasn't only about the militant aspect.. how every mother who teaches
her children to be proud of their Palestinian origin is advancing
the intifada... as is every doctor giving aid... as is every volunteer
distributing food in spite of the curfew and the blockade... he
also talked about how when they left Palestine and arrived at Heathrow
they were detained by the British police under the new Terrorism
Act... how some zionist coward on campus threatened him because
he wore a badge that says Free Palestine... how that same badge
got him detained again on another trip back from Brussels... how
he was questioned about his links to Palestine and why he campaigns
for it... how he was threatened that if he did not cooperate he
could be detained without charge (also under the same Terrorism
Act) for up to seven days... how his friend had indeed been detained
for 72 hours also apparently because he wore the same badge...
Then there was a discussion and question and answer slot... the
crowd there was truly amazing.. except for a couple of people who
pissed me off (excuse my french) with their stupid questions about
suicide bombers (which were cleverly answered by all three students).
I really found the support overwhelming... there was a woman from
Amnesty sitting behind me distributing leaflets... when the PCS
rep told the audience about the campaign and how to join, I overheard
her say "do join - it's great fun, and delicious Palestinian
food - Maklooba! ... she was very sweet and after the meeting was
over she and a couple other Amnesty workers stood outside with black
flags in commemoration of the Palestinian dead. I was amused
when the main speaker called us Comrades... I felt it was like out
of a movie or something.. I may have inadvertently signed up for
the SLP but right now with all they are doing for our cause I couldn't
The students also talked about an upcoming trip to Palestine from
the 1st till the 10th of June... and listed numbers for people who
wanted to join them... they also talked about the great Rally
to be held on the 18th of May in London for Palestine... and they
gave us all stickers of the Palestinian flag with the words: Boycott
Israeli Apartheid written on them... the lady from Amnesty also
distributed flyers about boycotting Israeli goods.. and she encouraged
everyone to demand that store not stock up on Israeli products...
I was amazed at the grass root action in Britain.. I was never aware
of it to this extent... I also tried to do my bit and told the PSC
members about dying2live.com and how they can help spread that campaign
across the media here...
In conclusion... I have to say that I am extremely proud of the
action my fellow students have taken... if anything at least now
everyone on campus knows who Palestinians really are, and the conditions
they are living under. The students will be releasing a documentary
filmed by them while they were out in Palestine... I will pass on
details on how you can buy it when it comes out!