Reporters journal: Israel

NAZARETH – I was moved to tears to read Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D-W.Va.) statement about the impact of the calls and e-mails he received. People here are excited about how many in Congress voted against Bush’s Iraq war, though the dread of the war and its impact is undeniable. We do have a lot of work to do, but we’ve come so very far in a few short weeks.

Now the question is how can we channel this powerful people’s democracy action into defeating the Bush agenda in the elections – a big challenge but necessary. The grassroots has grabbed the ear of Congress – so let’s keep the pressure on!

For those who worried about my safety I can assure that the biggest problems I have faced are the incessant chain smoking around me and the shower where I couldn’t figure out how to control the flow of water and almost flooded the entire floor of the hotel!!

The Communist Party of Israel’s Congress was incredible. Members of the opposition parties in the Knesset and the peace movement spoke. But what was most incredible is the commitment of the CPI to Jewish-Arab unity in action to turn back the Sharon government’s war and economic crisis. (See story page 6.)

Tomorrow 50,000 state workers will strike. The crisis is even more than the terrorist bombings and the continued military actions in the occupied territories.

Today we traveled to Ramallah for a meeting with Arafat but it got rescheduled due to an urgent meeting on the January elections. We went to the compound; the effects of the bombing/siege of two weeks ago are incredible.

The city remains on a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and the Army remains in the streets as children struggle to go through checkpoints to school and families remain prisoners in their homes while suffering 75 percent unemployment and most living below the poverty line.

The city is one that looks like it is being destroyed not only by bombs but also by attrition. It’s is a terrible tragedy. Those who care about the future of Palestine are doing everything in their power to unite the people for the continued struggle for a Palestinian state.

Tomorrow we will met with Arafat and I have been choosen to open the meeting – so I’m freaking and I have to work on my talk. So it’s just a brief note.

The author can be reached at Jleblanc@cpusa.org