PARIS, November 11, 2009 (WAFA)- Head of International Solidarity Campaign the French Claude Leostic during the Israel besiege of late President Arafat (Abu Ammar) in 2002 remembered those days on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of his passing away. She wrote:
It’s been 6 years since I was forced to leave Palestine by the Israeli occupation authorities. 6 long years when my heart and my mind have partly stayed in Palestine, with my friends, those I worked with to organise the international delegations coming to your occupied territory: Bahia, Nasser, Allam, Ghassan, Mustafa, Mohammed, Ashraf, and Mahmoud, Zafer, and all the others: the shebab (youth) at the Muqata’a, the people of Ramallah and Nablus, of Askar and Balata, “my” special places in Palestine.
You know, I am a member of a French association which has supported the Palestinian people for very long years and in 2001, leaving my family behind, I came to Palestine after one year of your Intifada to show direct support and solidarity to you all in your fight for your legitimate rights and your freedom. Soon we were all taken in the violence of Sharon’s attack against the West Bank. I often think of it and I remember…
The tanks in the streets and the fighter planes in the sky, the check-points and the snipers, what you continue to suffer from daily and which I shared with you. The anger and the frustration. Blood in the streets, mass graves in Ramallah, the Israeli M16 aimed at children, grenades thrown into cars, the demonstrations shot at. The soldiers of occupation in Palestinian hospitals, in your homes and schools. Frightened little girls crawling under the canons of the occupiers' tanks to go to school in Nablus in spite of everything, students walking in the winter mud or summer dust of your beautiful hills to reach An-Najah University. The streets under curfew, empty except for the occupier, the fear and the isolation. I saw it all, I lived with you through all that and tried to help stop that injustice.
With Medical relief teams in Nablus, to bring some relief to families detained in their occupied homes. With ambulances, where being an international made it easier to move around. You know many other people did the same, members of the many delegations who were in Palestine then. Against barbarity, solidarity was strong and comforting. So was your welcome and friendship and I had the feeling I was part of you, of your story and your dream and hope of liberation.
My native country, France, has also been occupied by a terrible army, strong and conquering. The people of France resisted against the Nazi barbarians, for their rights to be free in their homeland, for their dignity as human beings too. The occupation of France lasted 4 years. It’s long. But you have been suffering for more than 40 years, as incredible as it seems in this modern world, and that came after the Nakba… 61 years altogether of spoliation and painful injustice. Unbelievable, as Abu Ammar used to say.
Abu Ammar… They probably killed him. You know he was my friend and my pain lingers. I had first met him when I took delegations to meet him, as your president, as the father of the Palestinian struggle. But it’s in April 2002 that I- with 40 Internationals- spent a long time with him, under the menace of the Israeli troops that besieged the Muqata’a. I took the group there, in accord with Mustafa Barghouti (I remember the phone call at night: “they are in Ramallah” then later: “There are dead guys already at the Muqata’a, they are surrounded, they are fighting. We must do something, we can’t let that happen” Mustafa said, which was exactly what I was thinking). I decided to try to get into the Muqata'a, not because it was Yasser Arafat -even though it mattered a lot-, but because we thought it was morally and politically necessary, it was a question of saving –maybe- hundreds of people. And because it didn’t seem acceptable to let the Israeli government go on with their crimes and their plan to eliminate the Palestinian leadership. We, Internationals, had to try, to resist with you, to stand up against the forces of injustice, the bearers of war, Sharon's barbarians. It was what internationalism is all about. Honour too. You could not possibly do it then. We had to try. And we did. Through the empty streets of Ramallah, with the soldiers everywhere, we managed to get inside the Muqata’a and we stayed 33 days with the people who lived or had taken refuge there when the tanks entered Ramallah. I’ve heard Sharon wasn’t happy!!!! Other Internationals were in Bethlehem and some in Jenin. But I’m sure you remember all that like me.
So this is when I got to know Abu Ammar well. This is when I made many other friends, Mohammad, Samir, Mahmoud and all the others whom I badly miss still. We lived through the siege in terrible conditions but we survived it and we won that together. This is something none of us will forget.
After that, Ramallah was my home, and my friends were at every street corner. I continued to work with you all, as of course the Israeli government had not given up on occupation. But then I had to go to France to see my family, and the Israeli authorities tried to stop me coming back. I came back, though, for some short weeks, just enough to visit you, my friends, to say goodbye after 2 years shared with you. Going away was painful. You know better than me what I’m talking about, exile and loss have been your lot for so long. For far too long.
But even though I can’t be with you now (I tried to come back in 2005 but they didn’t let me. You know, “the security of Israel”…), I’ve never stopped working for Palestine in France, with my association, France- Palestine Solidarity.
I’m going to do it again on the 1rst of January 2010 when with, I hope, thousands of people who will get into Gaza and march there for freedom, we will denounce the criminal siege of Gaza.
We will also demand the end of the ongoing violence of Israeli occupation and colonisation and will demand all your rights, the return of your refugees, the liberation of all the prisoners, the end of colonisation, your state and al Quds [East Jerusalem] for your capital. What Abu Ammar always fought for...