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General News    H3'ed 4/23/19

Tomgram: Jen Marlowe, Running for the Right to Thrive

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Weren't the president, his family, and his foreign-policy team lucky? After all, when they faced the conundrum that had stymied previous American presidencies, that had turned plan after plan, "roadmap" after "roadmap," into dust in the Middle East, they lucked out. The Palestinians were gone. No need to give them aid anymore. No excuse not to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. No reason for a two-state solution in a one-state region. No need to let any of the bothersome Palestinians who were left into the U.S. In a world mainly inhabited by Bibi, Donald, and Jared, anything was possible. The Israeli Golan Heights? Why not? The Israeli West Bank? That was obviously in the cards Bibi himself played in the last election (which he, like The Donald, won) and annexation of Jewish settlements there won't affect the "peace plan" that Jared Kushner is to lay on the table later this year.

It's no small thing, of course, to disappear a people, but so far Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu have had significant, if bloody, success in this. If, however, you still want to consider what the actual world of the Middle East is like, you might want to take a long jog with TomDispatchregular Jen Marlowe and think about what it means for Palestinians to survive, no less thrive, in an increasingly grim world. Tom

The Palestine Marathon
A Window Into Occupation and Survival in a Less Than Holy Land
By Jen Marlowe

I never intended to run a marathon, but when I realized that I would be on hand for the 2019 Palestine Marathon, I registered. I did so in solidarity with the goals of the aptly named Right to Movement, the global running community founded in 2013 to organize the first annual marathon there.

The irony was not lost on me, however: in training for a marathon meant to highlight the right to freedom of movement, I would utilize my privilege as a foreigner to access land that Palestinians themselves could not enter. I trained in the West Bank, dotted with Israeli settlements, checkpoints, and military bases; in the Gaza Strip, the Mediterranean coastal enclave under Israeli blockade since 2007; in the northern Israeli city of Haifa; and in Jerusalem, the western part of which has been part of Israel since 1948 and the eastern part of which Israel occupied in 1967.

While I realized that there would be challenges during my training runs, what I hadn't anticipated was the window they would provide into the lives of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

February 14th: 15-mile training run, northern West Bank

I stretch my hamstrings just after dawn on the Dawabsheh family's restored porch in the village of Duma, facing the scorched remains of their neighbors' home. I met Eman, Ma'amoun, and their five sons in July 2015 after an Israeli settler had firebombed their home, as well as that of those neighbors (and distant cousins) Sa'ad and Riham Dawabsheh. Eman's family had not been at home at the time. Sa'ad, Riham, and their children were not so lucky. Four-year-old Ahmad was rescued from the blaze and, despite severe burns, survived. Although Riham and Sa'ad were also pulled from the inferno, they succumbed to their injuries. Eighteen-month-old Ali's tiny charred corpse was found in the ruins of the house after the flames were extinguished.

I begin a slow warm-up jog through the village, imagining baby Ali's first steps on wobbly toddler legs. I run past Ma'amoun's goat sheds and cross through olive groves until I reach the main road and head south. I see signs for Shiloh and Shvut Rahel -- Israeli settlements deep in the West Bank -- and pass armed hitchhiking youths wearing knitted skullcaps.

Narrow, sun-bleached side roads wend around terraced rocky hills and into neighboring villages. On one such road, Israeli army vehicles drive past as teenage soldiers stare at me from the back of an open jeep, assault weapons in their laps. Soon, I reach the entrance to an Israeli military base and promptly turn around before anyone questions me.

The air grows warm, but I have more mileage to pound out, so I start up a rocky path and soon find myself on the outskirts of another village. Pulling out my phone to see where I am, I'm startled and check again. I hadn't realized that Mughayyir was this close to Duma. I had been in Mughayyir only a week earlier with the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem. Residents of the village had walked us through a recent attack by Israeli settlers from the nearby outpost of Adei Ad. The farmers were working their land here -- one man indicated the slope behind him as thick fog rolled in. The armed settlers came from that outpost -- he pointed to a nearby hill -- and began attacking the villagers. A Palestinian flag fluttered under an overcast sky, marking the spot where 38-year-old Hamdi Na'asan had been shot and killed.

I jog back toward Duma thinking of the photo I had seen of Na'asan holding his four children. It's not until I pass more armed youth wearing yarmulkes that the realization hits me. The settlers who killed Hamdi Na'asan came from the outpost of Adei Ad. The settler who burned Ali Dawabsheh to death had also lived in Adei Ad.

A goat herder waves to me from a terraced hill as I near the entrance to Duma. It's Ma'amoun Dawabsheh.

February 22nd: 16-mile training run, the Gaza Strip

I head toward Gaza City's seaport. The sun hasn't crested. The air is crisp and cool. I run south alongside the waves, relieved that their rhythmic pulse drowns out the Israeli drones overhead. Their incessant buzzing always puts me on edge. One dawn in 2004, armed drones killed two militants outside the building where I was staying. Children scooped up scraps of the men's scalps on small sticks, presenting them for me to film.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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