NEWS CENTER – After a break of two years caused by the Corona pandemic, the annual Farkha Youth Festival is taking place in Palestine for the 27th time. This festival brings together Palestinian youth as well as internationalists from all over the world. Within a week, not only perspectives are exchanged through political discussions and seminars, but also practical work, such as planting trees and laying roads, is done in the village. In 2022, as internationalist and Kurdish youth, we were part of the 50-member delegation of youth organizations from different countries to come to Farkha to exchange with the democratic forces of Palestine and to make the solidarity of peoples practical on the basis of the internationalist spirit.
Before the actual festival began, we started a three-day political tour of several places in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel. In each of these places, we were shown different dimensions of state repression. The different faces of the aggressive occupation policy can already be seen, especially in the West Bank, through the so-called “ABC division”. The C-area describes the areas which are completely under military and political control of the Israeli state, the B-area those which are militarily administered by Israel, but politically by the Palestinian Authority. The A-area is under Palestinian military and political control. In the following we will describe the impressions of the individual places and their historical classification.
On July 28, we were warmly welcomed in Yafa/Al-Nazareth by the youth of the Communist Party of Israel (MAKI), which consists of Palestinians in Israeli-occupied Palestine. With the 50 internationals of the delegation and the Palestinian youth, we started the evening with revolutionary songs and after the first acquaintance we were accommodated in families.
The three following days consisted of the political tour of the places: Ma’alul, Akka, Al-Quds (Jerusalem), Bethlehem and Al-Khalil (Hebron).
Ma’alul is one of the hundreds of villages destroyed at the beginning of the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948. The Nakba describes the establishment of the State of Israel and the resulting forced displacements, expulsions and killings of the indigenous Palestinian population. Around 750,000 Palestinians were displaced in 1948, but for society, the Nakba is not a one-time event. Due to the various state measures and the repressive and apartheid regime that was established, expulsions and direct violence continue to take place to this day.
Before 1948, the village of Ma’alul was a multicultural village where mainly Muslims and Christians lived together. Witnesses of this coexistence can still be seen today in the form of the destroyed mosque and the preserved church. While the reconstruction of the mosque was forbidden by the state, the church is at least sporadically used again for weddings. This reappropriation of the village is part of the resistance against the state occupation policy. Groups of young people also keep coming to the destroyed village to collect garbage and to take care of the preservation of the church. These efforts are regularly harassed and destroyed by settler groups. The Christian population was offered to return to the village after the expulsion, but they refused to resume village life without their Muslim neighbors and thus become part of their displacement.
In Al-Quds, we spent the day mainly in the Old City, which is located in the east of the city and is surrounded by a large, historic city wall. Al-Quds is divided into two parts, the occupied east and the annexed west of the city.
The consequences of the Nakba are also readily apparent here: in 1948, some 28,000 Palestinians were pushed from western Al-Quds to the east, thus becoming refugees in their own city. This policy continues today, in line with the motto “More Land, Less People.” In order to achieve this goal, various means are used, such as the construction of a wall in the early 2000s, which serves to separate and fragment the Palestinian population, or the constant growth of illegal settlements in East Jerusalem by the settlers and the consequent destruction of their homes.
In addition to the all too evident settlement policies that characterize the city, Al-Quds is also a center of history and culture. Places like the Al Aqsa Mosque and the massive city wall are just two of the sites that make this city an immensely important heritage site for humanity. This makes the alienation and gentrification that is taking place to turn a historic meeting place of cultures, in the midst of a vibrant city, into a tourist desert all the more despicable.
A special moment for us was a brief encounter with the Kurdish population of the city, who despite centuries of existence in Palestine have still preserved their language and culture.
Bethlehem and Al-Quds are separated by an 8 meter high apartheid wall. As a delegation we went to the Banksy Museum, which is right next to the wall and documents the crimes of the IDF along with art. From M-16s hidden in cuddly toys, tear gas, cluster bombs and armored eviction trucks to testimonies and thus confessions of former IDF soldiers, the full extent of the occupation since 1948 became clear in the museum. The everyday harassment and attacks that escalated from ’48 to the 1st and 2nd Intifada were presented. For example, soldiers who are bored shooting at the water tanks of Palestinian homes.
Settler colonialism in Al-Khalil is symbolic of Israel’s apartheid policies. Al-Khalil is actually considered an A-Zone, i.e. under Palestinian self-government, but piece by piece the city center is occupied by the (Orthodox) Jewish settlers. The settlers there are the most fascist apartheid Zionists in Israel. For the purpose of alleged ‘self-defense’ they walk through the cities with M-16 machine guns, pelting the Palestinian population and especially the youth with stones, garbage, sewage, diapers and sometimes iron bars. One man was thrown an iron bar on his head some time ago, which penetrated 4cm into his skull. These fascist crimes are not punished. They terrorize the population until they are forced to leave their homes, then they break in and occupy them. If the youth of Palestine resist this terror, the IDF responds with weapons of war such as the ‘Skunk truck’, from which a chemical mixture is fired at high pressure through water cannons up to 100m. A few splashes are enough to carry the sickening smell for weeks. The rest of the canisters they dump into homes, stores or over cars. Or weapons of war like ‘the scream’, a device that emits such a loud sound that it causes physically unbearable pain. Shooting is mostly done with rubber bullets, sometimes with live ammunition. The 50 internationalists were visibly moved by the descriptions of the war practices of this gigantic fascist superior force against the indigenous population.
All these heinous practices serve Israel’s policy of complete crushing of the remaining Palestinian resistance and terrorization of society.
After getting a lot of new impressions and knowledge about Palestine and its history during these 3 days, it is time to get to know the society as well. Immediately after arriving in Farkha, we participated in the opening demonstration together with hundreds of residents of the village. Afterwards, an opening ceremony was held with speeches and music, as well as theater and dance performances by Farkha’s youth. The resulting morale and enthusiasm immediately spread to all festival participants and provided a successful transition for the days to come.
More reports to follow…