Rest in peace Ahmed Eriqat | The Occupation is Deadly

Rest in peace Ahmahmed eriqated Eriqat | The Occupation is Deadly (long read)

Written 23rd June 2020

Ahmed, we will miss you. Many of us in CADFA who have been in Abu Dis over the past years remember you and your energy and your beautiful smile. We are angry and upset by your early death and the manner of your going. We will take your murder as a renewed reason to fight against racism and.for all Palestinians’ right to live a free and decent life. #Palestinianlivesmatter
“He had the most amazing smile. I remember Ahmed over years at Dar Assadaqa Centre – He was often involved with the summer activities there and spent time with the CADFA volunteers. I wish now he’d been successful in one of his applications to join a CADFA visit to London. I remember his sister Farah well – she joined a girls’ music visit to London in, I think, 2008, and I used to bump into them both on visits to Abu Dis over the years that followed and watch them become impressive young adults. I met their poor mum.”
We were contacted this evening by upset CADFA volunteers and visitors who were friends of Ahmed’s during their time in Palestine, realising who it is in this news that is going fast across the internet. “I just saw the awful news of Ahmed Areqat’s murder and it really struck me. He was such a sweet young man, very friendly to us volunteers, and we were very fond of him.”
Dear friends of CADFA

We are writing to you all with some horrible news. A few days ago in a Palestine for Beginners session (CADFA zoom event), the CADFA co-ordinator in Abu Dis told people “Checkpoints are very dangerous for Palestinians. A number of people have been killed at Container checkpoint in the past few years.” It wasn’t clear if the western people who had not been to Palestine had any idea what a checkpoint would be like, or what danger there might be there. Today saw the sort of real horror that hangs over the word ‘checkpoint ‘ for Palestinians: those heavily-armed military places that interrupt normal life, manned by soldiers to whom Palestinian life is of no consequence.

For a lot of time in Palestine, people are just getting on with their normal lives. The sun shines (or it doesn’t), families cook, clean, work (if they have work), play sport, visit friends, whatever. Arrangements are made for marriages. Then out of the blue the fault lines and the chaos of the underlying situation are shown up by a sudden horrible incident.
Today the young man who lost his life, shot by an Israeli soldier and left to bleed to death, was Ahmed Eriqat from Abu Dis. He was 27, young, healthy and full of life: he was due to be married soon. (His wedding, set for May, was postponed because of Corona.) Ahmed did a degree at Al Quds University in graphic design and had a small tee-shirt printing business in Abu Dis.

Today was his sister Iman’s wedding day. Ahmed had rented a car, dropped his sister and their mother at a hair salon to have their hair done for the wedding, and set out to get the car decorated ready for the evening wedding. The road to Bethlehem from Abu Dis is now a main road in Palestine, since Israel has blocked the old roads that went via Jerusalem. There is no main road in Palestine without an Israeli checkpoint, and there is no checkpoint in Palestine at which Palestinians have not been killed. On the Wad an-Nar road to Bethlehem, there is a major checkpoint known as Container after the original sea container that used to be a tea-shop near the bus stop in Sawahreh, on the Jerusalem road. Now it is a military point that has become increasingly fortified with a watchtower and heavily armed soldiers.

Then, this afternoon, the peace was shattered suddenly by army shooting. A small witness video was released with someone upset saying “they just shot him in front of us…” We don’t know exactly how it happened, but Ahmed was shot by Israeli soldiers and died there.

No one in Abu Dis gives a minute’s credence to the excuse they saw given by the Israeli military. “He was not about to run his car into soldiers,” wrote a friend. “He was going to pick up his mother and sister on a happy occasion, and he had a lot going for him: he was about to get married himself.”

We are told that his mother was unprepared to believe it when she was told that Ahmed had died, and decided that he had just been unable to pick her and Iman up – so they got themselves to the wedding hall, dressed and looking beautiful – and found everyone there crying and crying.

We send deep condolences to Ahmed’s parents, fiancee and family. We wish them all, and all the Abu Dis community, the strength to bear this.
*The occupation is deadly.” #Palestinianlivesmatter

We wish it were the first time or even the second that we have to write to you about the Israeli army killing a Palestinian. But over the years since CADFA was started, this has shockingly happened again and again.

Just as we have to say ‘Black Lives Matter’ because of systemic racism and violence against Black people that has happened before and also since the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, so too do we have to say ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ for reasons that relate to systemic racism and violence against Palestinians in their own country at the hands of the Israeli military and settler movement.

If we raise our eyes from Abu Dis to look at Palestine as a whole since CADFA started 16 years ago, there have been over 6000 killings at the hands of the Israeli army and settler movement (from Wafa, Palestinian press agency), six of these in Abu Dis. A reporter from local television (Qanat al Ghad) said that 25 young people have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of 2020, and 11 of them in cars in the way that Ahmed was.

If we look further back, since the formation of the state of Israel, the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israeli army/settlers is undoubtedly high but are figures very hard to establish. If those in power did not value the lives, would they keep the numbers? How many, many thousand people died in massacres and in war, in settler attacks or army sniping or at checkpoints from 1948 onwards? How many of the people who disappeared (we know about this from Abu Dis in 1967 for example) were killed by soldiers? Their deaths can in any case be laid at the door of the occupation. Do we count all the terrible checkpoint deaths when people were blocked by occupation forces from getting to hospital and died? It is very hard to know the number over these 72 years – are we talking of a million? More? or fewer? Each one if these a person with a life and a family and so many around them grieving.

Recently in a discussion about Covid-19 deaths in the UK and Palestine, we were told “Our old people have already died. We have very few that are living the long old age that you manage to have in the West.” That’s right. While Israel has a higher life expectancy than the UK (around 82 and around 81), life expectancy in Palestine is around 73 years of age because of lives led under the stress and strain of being second-class citizens in an apartheid occupation.

Colonialism and deep racism, taking land and livelihoods, dividing, using and abusing people are the link between ‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ and ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Until when? Is a cry from both movements, and the answer to the call for change needs to be NOW.

There is no way that Ahmed Ariqat is a just number to us who have known him, or of course to his family or community, but his sad, sad killing reminds us that this has happened before and unless change is achieved will happen again. And that is not bearable at all.

CADFA – 23rd June 2020

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