DAY 173: Unaccompanied

June 18th, 2016 § 0 comments

I typed the word as a heading, relating to the situation of so many children in the camps in the north of France (which I’ll return to) but on this 18th of June, doesn’t it apply as much to you and me? Who is accompanying us in our journey through the approaching darkness? In almost my first post I reproduced a copy of ‘Guernica’ as a warning of the horrors to come. I had no idea.

First, a quote from my usual ‘moral compass’ (I overuse that phrase , I know) Izzy Tomico Ellis:

”’Never again”; is the phrase used to describe the Holocaust. The ensuing creation of the EU aimed to prevent a similar tragedy. Though this has been realised in Europe, all over the world atrocities of a similarly brutal nature have and continue to occur.

Britain is on the brink of destroying this union, imperfect as it may be, it is (ideologically) a step in the right direction.

Greed and hatred have created borders, division, inequality and a growing culture of extremism. This is being fought by dropping bombs and putting up fences, a completely inhumane and utterly stupid strategy. It is widely accepted that to solve a problem you tackle the route not the cause.

This hatred and greed is what spurs the racism, xenophobia and inequality we see.

The shooting of a Labour MP by a man who shouted ‘Britain first’ is not unlike the crimes of ISIS that many supportersYrGoeOpK_400x400 of the far-right use to justify their actions. They are too, extremists.

The widespread desire to leave the EU is routed in fears of immigration and of sharing, or simply the inability of being humane.

RIP Jo Cox and every other soul who has died fighting for dreams of a more kind world.’

The shooting of Jo Cox gives me, like Izzy, the feeling that we are descending into darkness. What do we have to set against them? The fact that everywhere groups of us are working against the darkness, the belief that we must prevail. And, of course, the simple knowledge which I repeat over and over again, that you can’t keep an increasing number of people out of ‘our Europe’ indefinitely.Why, even in Slovakia (I chose it at random as an example of a country which was hostile to migrants -maybe unfairly -) you will find your welcoming committeesutecenci-prichod-Gabcikovo

 and probably your local branch of ‘No Borders’. You can’t, as I keep repeating, hold us down for good, even if you gun down our militantsIs it good that I console myself in this way? The number of refugees in the camp at Calais has increased by 1000 (from 5178 to 6123, i.e. more than before the demolitions), access to convoys of food aid is being blocked – most flagrantly today (June 18th) when a high-profile convoy of 250 vehicles bringing food aid was stopped at the border. Hundreds of people had assembled in Whitehall before driving down to Dover, with ferry tickets booked for a crossing on Saturday afternoon.

But the French police, who carry out border checks on English soil as part of a bilateral treaty, refused entry to the country for unspecified security concerns.

This Ramadan the need is obvious in the camps of northern France and the authorities are doing nothing to alleviate it. To donate, among other appeals, you can go to The number of unaccompanied children in the camp is estimated at 544 (figure from ‘passeurs d’hospitalités’, probably a low estimate)Calais-Victims

Child’s toy, abandoned in Calais

In Syria, to continue with my brief tour d’horizon, the darkness is deeper and of a different kind; if a radical activist is shot you can be fairly sure that her murder, so far from being investigated, will be rewarded by the dark forces that instigated it. While in the West Bank of Palestine, the shootings  (often by the army, and not by random racist civilians) will continue, but will never be adequately followed up, as we know.

Where then can we look for comfort except in popular resistance, popular culture, a living community such as I found in Nablus, eloquently described by Yasmina Mehdaoui – who was there at the same time as me but has given a much fuller testimony.

‘The most rewarding time I ever experienced

By: Yasmina Mehdaoui

The 17 days I spent in Palestine were the most rewarding I ever experienced. Forget about the ‎media, about the politician speeches…etc. If you really want to learn about the reality of the  ‎occupation, you have to go there and see all of it with your own eyes. We had the chance to ‎visit Bethlehem, Hebron, and many other cities and villages around Nablus, which is where ‎we were staying during the whole volunteering program.‎

The training workshops we were offering to students were very interesting and rewarding. ‎They were an excellent way to exchange with the students and train them on debating skills in ‎English. We debated over political and social issues such as the Palestinians/Israelis conflict, ‎the Arab Spring, secularism system, the banning of the Hijab in France, Islam phobia in the ‎world, immigration…etc. It was interesting to have the students’ point of view and opinions ‎on these matters, and also exercise them to find arguments both sides, even if they were ‎against or for something in particular. Finding opposite arguments was a way to force them to ‎understand the opposite view, something important in the world, and something which was ‎also the point of the title of the Zajel camp: “Understanding is a two way effort”. I enjoyed ‎every moment I spent inside the old and new campuses in this great university where I could ‎clearly feel that “they challenge the present to shape the future”.‎

My purpose in Palestine was to understand more the impact of the occupation on people, try ‎to see the conflict through their eyes, exchange with them and hear what could be the ‎solutions of a predicament that has been going on for almost seventy years now since the 1948 ‎disaster.‎

I was able to witness the Israeli occupation, the settlements, the way Palestinians are treated, ‎the privation of their rights and properties, the moral harassment, humiliation, the total absence ‎of humanity through the Apartheid Wall and the ethnical discrimination, particularly in ‎Hebron city. There are no words to describe or express what you feel as you witness such ‎things, the frustration of feeling powerless and not being able to make a huge difference, the ‎anger towards some powerful countries that support and even finance the Israeli military ‎forces.‎

You think the apartheid system ended after American and South African segregation history ‎with the fight of Nelson Mandela, Malcom X or Martin Luther King, but Palestine is one of ‎the places that prove that wrong, and people around the world need to know that this racist ‎and degrading system still exists around the world.‎

I am happy and grateful for the whole Palestinians I was able to meet and learn from along the ‎way at An-Najah University and in the other places we had the great chance to go. I was truly ‎pleased to see their mental strength, the hope in their eyes despite the situation. The ‎Palestinian is not a trouble maker like they want us to believe in some of the media, the ‎Palestinians are smart persons, who dreams and just want to have a normal life. They do not ‎only struggle to survive; they simply want to live like everybody else, they want to be free. ‎But seeing the Israeli authority behavior and actions, it seems like it is just too much to ask.‎

I often heard this proverb “they used to say Palestinians fight like heroes, now they say heroes ‎fight like Palestinians”, and after this experience, I realized first hand that this proverb could ‎not be more accurate, they truly represent an example of strength and patience. ‎

I wish to thank Zajel Youth program and the An-Najah University students, the volunteers ‎and all the people I met, for reminding me what truly matters in life, and what it is like to be a ‎real and strong fighter on a daily basis.‎

Thank you for your generosity, kindness and hospitality. I will always remember you and will ‎definitely come back.‎’

I believe – and I hope that my friends who have been repeatedly visiting Calais share the belief – that such a culture of resistance is being built up across the refugee camps and the entire Middle East; and will become our common culture.

I may, after such events followed by an evening of the depressed works of Dowland and his mates, be reduced to that feeling of’: ‘Flow, my tears‘. But don’t despair! You can get it if you really want, people.


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