Transcript edited by Pierce Butler.
This is the 31st in a series of transcript excerpts from the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program collection at the University of Florida, continuing last month’s story.
Dezeray Lyn was interviewed by Jessica Taylor [T] and Lara Alqasem [A] in 2009.
T: In your talk at the Civic Media Center, you focused a lot on children.
L: Palestinian children are not even seen as children. They’re just thrown into this terrifying, human rights-violating and crushing prison system.
I was at a demonstration and a young Palestinian was approaching. Everybody kind of froze, he was approaching a border police Jeep — the border police are notoriously violent and scary, even more so than the soldiers. He put his hands up and started approaching the Jeep, and turned around to show them he didn’t have a weapon and everybody was watching like, what is he doing? You would not want to approach any military person there. He got right up close to the Jeep and picked up a rock and threw it at the windshield. The soldiers arrested him. Someone told me he had a fight with his family earlier. He could’ve been shot, now he’s spending eighteen months, I believe, in Israeli prison.
I got to see a lot of how socially and psychologically this occupation was playing out. The Palestinian children, when they’re released from prison, they’re not how they were when they went in. They don’t respect their fathers anymore, or their mothers. It changes them.
I had this weird feeling that I was like a disaster tourist, and I didn’t like it, especially in refugee camps. I felt really, really uncomfortable, and I could really sense my privilege. I’m gonna tour through for a few hours and talk with them. It took on a life of its own. Some were trying to attempt interviews but then were so emotional, they couldn’t do it. But they were grateful to not be suffering in a vacuum, and to know that people wanted to know.
There are people that I still am in touch with through Facebook and email that I care very deeply for that make it really hard for me on Fridays to worry about them at demonstrations.
There was the man in Nablus. He’s security at the Nablus mall. He’s a very proud Palestinian, very supportive of the struggle, he’s part Syrian too. He was arrested because of a friend of his, involved in the armed resistance.
They hung him from the ceiling until the skin under his arms were ripping. They shot him, they tortured him, they threatened him with rape, they destroyed his home when they raided it, they hit his mother.
When he was being transferred, they drove him around for a couple of hours beating him. They kept throwing water on him. And hitting him with a metal stick and he was hooded, so he didn’t know what was going on. But when he realized that it was blood, he completely freaked out. It wasn’t water, it was just him bleeding from these wounds.
He told me about his time in prison, how this soldier Yousef was this constant player. He antagonized him, he threatened him, he beat him.
One day, when he was finally being brought to court after three months in Hawara, the soldier came in and said, oh I have something for you. When he went in the courtroom, there was like black glass, and behind it they had his mother and father. He just broke down crying and said, they thought they would break me by having my father handcuffed behind this glass, watching me. And then they hit him.
When they did catch and kill Raed, they posed with his body. That’s common. That’s coming out with the Break the Silence group, about posing and desecrating Palestinian’s bodies that they’ve killed.
They visited him in prison and said, we have good news for you: we killed Raed, and showed him a photo of his body and them posing with him. They cut out parts of his eyes and the pictures were graphic and really upsetting. He said, I didn’t cry when I saw the photos, I smiled. And I asked him, why? He said, because I was proud.
He cried when he got back to his cell. They likely killed his father at a checkpoint in Jordan. Stories like that, about people that are very kind, and I’m hearing about how they were brutalized and beaten and locked down in a chair, for days and days — stories like that were very upsetting and really stuck with me.
T: The Dream Defenders in Florida have a connection to the Palestinian liberation. Can you comment on the global connections?
L: There’s no way to ignore the intersectionality of these struggles. So with the movement here, like Black Lives Matter or Dream Defenders, and the brutalization of black and brown communities, there are strong specific ties, because the Israeli military is training police departments here in the U.S.
There’s an NYPD office inside Israel. The U.S. is buying weapons from them. Israel’s the biggest [small] arms dealer in the world, so they’re responsible for these global miseries. A lot of the weapons that they’re selling, they advertise that they were tested on real-live Palestinians.
Palestinians and oppressed black and brown communities are reaching out and assisting each other. This is the last thing that these global superpowers want, for people to unite and to recognize there is no division in suffering. When I went to the ISM, I met someone who had a Black Lives Matter shirt on. There was a tweet telling people in Ferguson how to deal with tear gas, and he said, I did that tweet. And he’s a Palestinian.
How do we fight when we have very clear boundaries? We don’t want to create pain or violence or misery with anyone. You’re fighting against people that absolutely have no boundaries. They’ll do anything. They’ll kill for money. They’ll jail: they won’t think twice about the fact that you’re in prison for life for political or acts of conscience.
As long as we avoid what they’re trying to do, which is creating division, and keep an eye on the fact that a lot of revolutions are infiltrated, leading people down different paths, creating internal strife and division. If we work together, learn about each other’s cultures and struggles, like Palestinians did when Ferguson was being tear gassed: hey, this is what you do, this is how you can stay safe, mutual aid, solidarity, and support would help, and caring and empathy would be the first step in that.
I was there two months. I was incredibly distraught coming back. I was distraught on Nakba Day when I wasn’t there, and these demonstrations were happening all over the West Bank. Lately, I just feel like, do you have any idea what’s happening elsewhere? In a way I feel like it ruined me. I just feel lost, and not like myself. I’m pushing to go back there in September, because I don’t feel right being here and being comfortable or safe while people aren’t comfortable and safe elsewhere.
A: Can you talk a little more about the Friday protests?
L: Every Friday in the West Bank there’s demonstrations in villages like Kufr Qaddum, Ni’lin, Bil’in, Nabi Salih, and a military prison, Ofer. People come out for hours and hours. Every Friday people gather: villagers, human rights activists, journalists, medics. They’re marching against the occupation, against the blocking of their roads, against the stealing of their water and diverting it to settlements, against the land theft, the uprootings of their trees, the imprisoning of their family members and the members of their villages. A portion of the demonstration is young Palestinians. Throwing stones at their occupiers. And the rest of it mainly is the Israeli military firing on everyone.
There’s people that have really young children on their shoulders who are marching and they have flags and signs, just asserting that we’re here.
During the creation of the Israeli state, the saying was, the old will die and the young will forget. That’s not happening, They don’t forget. They’re constantly fighting for their land. It’s scary. It goes on for several hours where you’re throwing stones, they’re shooting, everybody runs, they chase you into different areas.
You see a lot of people getting shot, getting hurt. It’s teargas and rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition and skunk trucks — this disgusting water that’s sprayed on everyone. That happens every single Friday in these different places. And every single Friday people are hurt. They don’t discriminate when they shoot on the crowd at all.
I cringed when I saw children at demonstrations. Especially the ones on the parents’ shoulders, and they’re marching towards the Israeli soldiers. But what else are they to do? They’re showing them, these are our families. You’re stealing our families.
It’s very likely that their children will end up in the Israeli Detention Facility, and in interrogation, or administrative detention, or they’ll be jailed. Their families are incredibly important, just like they are to us here, but their backs are against the wall. They’re not bringing their children to violence, these soldiers are invading their villages.
I didn’t experience one of the worst type of violence happening there, the settler violence: unpredictable, scary, ultra-violent settlers. There’s oceans of things left to find out, and personal stories, inhumanities, tragedies, quietly playing out every day there that I’m gonna try hard to bring back more of next time.
See http://ufdc.ufl.edu/l/AA00035192/00001?search=dezeray+=lyn for the full transcript of this interview.
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