Palestine: Of War and Shadows

Against the Current, No. 40, September/October 1992

Josie Wallenius

ONE OF THE WOMEN at work always wears a golden cross and chain around her neck and she is one of the kindest people I know; and she said to me as I set out for East Jerusalem and a tour of the occupied territories of Palestine with the “Grandmothers For Peace” of the United States:

“I will pray for you.”

And I answered:

“Don’t be daft, don’t pray for me. Pray for the children of Palestine.”

Another middle-aged woman said, “Be careful of the terrorists.”

And I answered: “You mean the Israelis?”

And she answered: “Oh no, not the Israelis, they are cute.”

Did you know St. George was a Palestinian saint? The Crusaders nabbed him because they had left their own indigenous saints back in Europe, and being scared shitless and needing a saint they stole one from a place now called Lod, formerly Lydda in Palestine.

They never taught me that in school in England, but then, they never taught me anything in school in England.

Making the Connections

I was at Lod (Lydda) in Palestine on my second day and I saw the place where St. George had come from.

When we were at the railroad camp at Lod I saw a little girl with only part of a left eye and scars running from this half eye down her cheek.

It had been a rat.

As I poised my finger over the camera I thought, I will only take this photo if I can make the connections, as I know what people will say: “But we have rats in poor areas of Canada too.” I pushed my finger down. Click.

Well, was the connection down the road at Canada Park, where Jewish people from Toronto had raised money to build a green park over three razed Palestinian villages?

No, that is not the connection. It has nothing to do with being Jewish. Jewish people were made to believe what everybody else was made to believe.

Look at a map, an old map, a map of the old European trading routes. Look at where Israel IS.

Trade, free trade, free cheap trade, oil for weapons trade, weapons for oil trade, and even if we did not vote for it we did not vote or fight or die hard enough against it because it is there, as Israel is there, in Palestine from where we stole a saint to be the patron saint of England, and as it is now everywhere else in the world where indigenous people are being removed in trade’s final solution.

And the connection is that wife battering and sexual abuse is rising in Jewish and Palestinian families, because war makes men even more violent and we have not been able to stop the weapons in the West.

And no left and right any more, just comfort zones and discomfort zones.

What Tourist Brochures Leave Out

The Palestinian woman told us about torture. She could have been any Palestinian woman who was resisting.

She was picked up from a demonstration where she had gone because her father was worrying about feeding the family. She did not know what rape meant, until they brought a big stick into her cell with a large nail through it and told her what it meant. But they did not do it that time, they only told her they would bring her father in to watch it happen when they did. They just struck her breasts with the stick with a nail.(1)

There is a torture called “Pouring to the bone.” During this woman’s interrogation she was asked if she wanted a cup of tea. She did not know what they meant. Kindness with torture. What could it mean?

It means that you sit with your legs crossed like a lady and hold your cup out and then scalding tea is poured over the side of the cup onto the ankle until the bone is seen through the flesh.

The second time she was arrested and tortured she had milk fever, because they had taken her when she was breast feeding her child, and her breasts were heavy with milk and they brought a hungry baby to the cell door and said it was her baby crying with hunger.

She was told to stand on her toes and to put her arms behind her, and then her arms were tied back to the wall, and she was kept in this position for long hours.

And as the woman was recounting this to us as she moved into the sunlight slanting through a window, and it cast a shadow of her on the floor of her home.

In Crusader Castle Shadows

I saw some of the crusader castles on our way to the Golan Heights.

I saw the Valley of Tears at the Golan Heights where the people [Syrian Druze villagers under Israeli occupation–ed.] take megaphones to call to each other over Israeli barbed wire to relatives separated since 1967. Relatives you will never be able to touch again unless you talk to a collaborator.

Saw a United Nations (handmaiden of United States) checkpoint on one side of the hill of the town we were in. And on the other side of the hill, just a glance away from the street, land strewn with bombs, just like Afghanistan, Mozambique and Cambodia but not like Western Europe, North America and Japan.

One person said in Golan that Israel is only bluffing, only bluffing to Syria when it says it is going to attack with nukes, that the next one will be a U.S. one on Libya; but others say, “when you see where the weapons are pointed….”

And in Gaza I read a poem about shadows.

I walk between darkness and light
The night of exile and
The shining memory of home.
The land I knew
Is given up to strangers
There is the sunshine
Do they feel my shadow?


1. A note for readers who find this account difficult to believe: Human
rights organizations and the Israeli Hebrew press have extensively
documented the fact that threats and acts of sexual abuse of
Palestinian women under interrogation, in the presence of male
family members, are used as a form of terror and humiliation of the
entire family–ed.

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September-October 1992, ATC 40