Who Were Those Heroes from Majd Al-Kurum?

Demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum in solidarity with Gaza developed into confrontation...

Demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum in solidarity with Gaza developed into confrontation…

In these hard days, when the rescuers are still digging for bodies under the ruins in Gaza, it is hard to find stories that are more fun than serious, as the Free Haifa Extra mood requires. It is even harder to justify their publication. But this one says so much about the spirit of the time that you might like to read it…

I wrote elsewhere that through this time of war and massacres we divide our time between demonstrations, attending court hearings and visiting prisoners and their families. This might be oversimplified. In between we spend long hours telling about the events, trading information and evaluating. At homes, in Bars, in front of the courts and the police stations, you will see the Shabab gathering and telling the stories.

I heard the story below in several different such gatherings, from different tellers, and it aroused much interest and mixed responses…

Da’ash in Majd Al-Kurum

Da’ash is the Arabic initials for ISIS – the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. It was big in the news recently after taking control of Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, and chasing away the Iraqi army of much of North and West Iraq. It even had some significant victories against Syria’s ruthless army.

Majd Al-Kurum, a small town in the middle of the Galilee, is known for its brave and patriotic people. Its people are also distinguished by their good spirit and social coherence. If you miss a friend on a visit to Majd Al-Kurum, he will most probably be sitting in some quite place with friends, drinking beer.

At the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza, on Thursday 10/7/2014, there was a protest demonstration in Majd Al-Kurum. Like in many other places, it developed into a clash with the police, which used tear gas, water cannons and shock grenades. The “Yassam”, the special police unit that specializes in beating protesters, played a major role. The local youth threw stones, burned car tires and closed some streets. It lasted for several hours. (You may see some more pictures and a report in Arabic here).

Our story tellers told us about a scene that supposedly happened in this context… A local youth was caught by under-cover police and was beaten by the Yassam. As it happened, a group of demonstrators wearing Da’ash closes came in. The Yassam saw Da’ash coming and run away…

At this point the audience mostly smile relieved. At last there is somebody that frightens those brutal Yassam, our daily tormentors. Later some smiles turn into grimaces. If this is the choice, leave us with the Yassam, it will be easier to get rid of them. And it is not necessarily the secular people that are saying that.

The Real Heroes

Today I met some of the comrades from Majd Al-Kurum. I told them the story and they didn’t know anything about it. This is the way urban legends are built – if there is the need, the story will follow and spread.

Then Murad scratched his head and said… Well, it wasn’t Da’ash, it was Dahesh. Dahesh is a private Arabic name. Our Dahesh is a local shopkeeper from Majd Al-Kurum, and he owed some tax money to the government.

When the tax collectors, accompanied by heavy Yassam force, raided his house a few months ago, the town’s people gathered at the place, confronted the police and the Yassam bullies had to run away.

The Lessons

Like in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, people all around are looking for the heroes that will save them from their weakness – in our case the weakness in the face of the brutal racist regime. People can quickly fall in love with anybody that can frighten their oppressors. But the real power, the only power that is really liberating, is the power of the people themselves.

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The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall

During the last month I was in Karmiel more than through the previous twenty years.

Karmiel is a small sleepy town in the Galilee, located on the Akka-Safad road, some 30 kilometers from Haifa. It was built in the 1960’s, as part of the Israeli governments drive for the Judaization of the Galilee, confiscating large chunks of Land from all the neighboring Arab villages and townships.

Unlike many other Israeli cities in the periphery, Karmiel is mostly well-to-do and Ashkenazi (of Jews from European origin). It is late to become a mixed city, maybe also because its better economic situation keeps house prices high. As I attended this Monday a lecture on “Arabs in Karmiel” in the municipality’s auditorium, there was an argument whether Arabs constitute 3% or 6% of the population (in a region where the Arabs are a clear majority) – most of them well-to-do families from nearby villages where living conditions are miserable and it is very hard to legally build a house.

Ramiya

Ramiya is a very small village that is now wholly surrounded by Karmiel. I wrote a short history of the struggle of Ramiya’s people in Free Haifa. Here I can just say that after long years of “sumud” – sticking to their land in spite of endless attempts to uproot them – now the people of Ramiya face an immediate danger of expulsion and that they renewed their mass struggle for their right to stay on their land.

In those visits to Ramiya I started to know its people and to admire and love them. They remind me of the small village of Asterix that is still resisting the Roman Empire, even as the whole of their Gaul country is occupied. Seeing how those people are enduring harsh conditions for a whole life is putting our easy life in perspective.

The existence of the small village, mostly made of tin shacks, as the residents are not allowed to build, is a live reminder for Karmiel of all the land-robbery and discrimination through which is got its reaches. Yet Karmiel’s municipality and the “Israel Land Authority” are sized by their own racist attitudes and grid and prevent Ramiya’s residents from building an orderly neighborhood inside Karmiel – they still want them to go away.

The struggle to save Ramiya is now becoming the center of struggle against Israeli apartheid for the people of the region. After the success of the mass struggle in stopping the Prawer plan for ethnic cleansing in the Naqab (even though the government now say that they will still continue to pursue this plan) – Palestinian youth are convinced of the need and possibility to go out to the streets to stop farther evictions.

The Chinese Tent

On Wednesday, 18.12.2013, there was a vigil in solidarity with Ramiya’s people on a main crossroad on the western entrance to Karmiel. On the same night the people of Ramiya built the solidarity tent that should be the center of the struggle over the next months.

Today (Thursday 19/12) we went to see the tent and help with the last preparations for tomorrow’s public meeting – the first even to which the wide public is invited to come and take part in the struggle.

We found a very big tent, maybe with the capacity to hold an activity for two hundred people. It has Chinese writing on its walls.

Being curious, we took a picture of the obscure Chinese writing and sent it to a friend that is learning the language. The answer was not late to come: “Take care, inflammable materials”!

Believe the Chinese, Apartheid in the Galilee is becoming unsustainable.