Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hey Nokia!

My friend Nokia has been refused a visa enabling him to return to the occupied West Bank. The government of Israel, which has imposed a military occupation over this land for the past 40 years, obviously considers him a threat to its security.

Nokia (in truth, Naoki) has spent this last summer in Palestine, mainly around the Hebron area, as a human rights worker. He would accompany children on their way to school, shielding them from attacks by settlers; he would go to the farms and the fields where settler violence was threatening the property, safety and livelihood of the indigenous population.

The presence of "internationals" from groups such as the International Solidarity Movement and the Christian Peacemaker Teams can have a significant effect in reducing and discouraging the worst excesses of settler violence and intimidation. Such people also bear witness to the colonisation and dismemberment of Palestine. For this reason their presence is discouraged by the Israeli government, which routinely denies entry to those with a record of speaking up on behalf of Palestinian human rights.

So Nokia cannot go back to Palestine. His presence in the streets of Hebron will be sorely missed. There will be no more cries of "Hey Nokia!" from the scores of children who loved this man, who delighted in his open, friendly personality and his commitment to their welfare. He won't be forgotten and, when Palestine is free, he will be welcomed back by his many friends.

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