molly hankwitz on 30 Oct 2000 14:55:05 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Camps keep in touch with intifada online

Camps keep in touch with intifada online - A new front has opened up for
refugees ?
the internet

Nicholas Blanford
                          Daily Star staff

 While the intifada has traditionally been fought with stones and bullets,
Palestinian demonstrators
 have gained a valuable new weapon to aid them in their struggle ? the
internet. Each day, the latest developments in the West Bank and Gaza are
sent via e-mail to the Bourj Shemali refugee camp on the edge of Tyre. A
team of volunteers translates the news from English into Arabic. It is
photocopied and then distributed around the camp, allowing the 17,000
residents to keep abreast of the latest developments. Others write e-mails
to friends and relatives in the Palestinian territories or engage in
"instant messenging" where participants can chat with each other via
computer consoles. “It has helped them feel a little more involved in the
struggle," said David Leduc, a Canadian working with the Across Borders
project which is bringing internet access to refugee camps throughout the
region. Bourj Shemali opened up to the internet on Sept. 30 and has since
attracted a devoted following among the more computer-literate residents.
Bourj Shemali was the third camp to receive the internet as part of the
Across Borders project. The other two camps are Dheisheh in the West Bank
and Khan Yunis in Gaza. The residents have designed their own website in
English and Arabic featuring up-to-the-minute news on the intifada and
events in the camp. Other pages cover the history of Bourj Shemali and
cultural events. For Thuraya Khallaf, the internet and e-mail has allowed
her to learn more about Palestine."I've always wanted to go to Palestine,"
she said. “I really want to know what’s happening  this is the best
way."Sami Hammoud volunteers his time in the centerto teach computer
skills. He said the instant messaging system had beena great benefit. “I
have friends in Dheisheh and Khan Yunis. We ask them about the everyday
situation in Palestine, the number of martyrs and injured. We tell them
what’s been happening in Lebanon and we
swap pictures too."

 The Bourj Shemali website at

Since the intifada began, Muna Muhaisen, a Palestinian-American journalist
living in Dhesisheh, has kept a daily diary of events in the West Bank. Her
diaries, which are distributed via e-mail,
have attracted a huge following.The Daily Star was able to interrupt a
conversation between Muhaisen and a "chatter" to ask her a few questions.
Her replies came back moments later...

	The Daily Star:  What’s the mood down there today?  How is morale
in the camp?

Muna: People are very angry about Sharm al-Sheikh and feel that there
should have been far more substantial political gains for the Palestinians
following all of the Israeli massacres. No
one  wants to go back to the occupation as it was and we all believe that
what happened was a clear sign that Oslo wasn’t working. Any peace that
falls short of creating a Palestinian state in all the territories occupied
in 1967 will lead to more intifadas.

	Do you think the clashes will continue at the
	same level and intensity despite the Sharm al-Sheikh “agreement?"

There will be all sorts of attempts to continue, especially that many in
the Tanzim Fatah
aren’t pleased with the developments, but I think there will be lots and
lots of pressure on people,
including on the Tanzim, to stop. We see lots of Hizbullah flags in the
demonstrations here.
Hizbullah seems to be the only Arab group that has lifted the morale here
as well as the Arab masses in their demonstrations.There are signs of
change this time around …without the Arab world, it is going to be hard to
gain independence.

	What does it mean to the people in Dheisheh to be able to contact the
	people in Bourj  Shemali during this intifada?

 As far as contact is concerned, it’s great. Ido chats with Khan Yunis in
Gaza and with Bourj Shemali and with Shatila … Actually, someone from
Shatila is online now trying to chat. I also get e-mails from Yarmouk in
Damascus. I think e-mail changed the way information has been exchanged
this time.
People get the news right away and are able to know what those so
far away are thinking.

	 Has it been able to help with intifada this time around?

I was online with Khan Yunis yesterday getting a live report about the
demonstrations and the injuries.
 It helps in terms of disseminating information quickly and spreading it
around the world. We get photos via e-mail about the demonstrations in
Bourj and they get our news from here.
Certainly, if it were up to me, I would teach every refugee everywhere how
to use e-mail and write  fluent English.The war with Israel is also a war
of media and PR and we never do well when it comes to image. Notice how we
don’t have one Palestinian  spokesperson who can address a Western
audience … we have too many spokespeople!

	Thank you very much, Muna.


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