Posts Tagged ‘nabe saleh’

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Weekly Post:

March 14, 2010

 West Bank Closure Extended

 Well, for part of this past week, the Israeli government decided to seal off the West Bank checkpoints. Internationals and those seeking medical treatment, or who have jobs in Israel are technically allowed to pass. I went through Qalandia checkpoint on Friday and Saturday and they were turning away most of the Palestinians, even the ones who had the permit to go to Jerusalem or a blue ID (that means they were born in Jerusalem and are allowed to cross into Israel).

 The closure was supposed to end on Sunday but has been extended to at least Tuesday.

 Tension at Al Aqsa Mosque

 This extension is most likely due to the recent tensions at Al Aqsa mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Israeli settlers and police have invaded the compound at least once in the past week and have stated that they will enter again.

 Whenever they invade the compound, the Palestinian youth defend the mosque by protesting and trying to prevent the settlers from entering. Israel usual has a few undercover guys who mix in with the Palestinians and incite the crowd by throwing stones, glass or other objects in the direction of the police. After that, the Israeli police and military can respond in whatever way they want.

 Old City Restrictions

 Israel’s assault on the Old City’s Palestinian residents doesn’t stop there. The IDF stormed most of the Old City’s Palestinian stalls and shops, confiscating the IDs of anyone not living in the Old City. Those people are then supposed to go to the temporary checkpoints at the Damascus and Herods gate to collect their papers—and they will most likely not allowed to return to their shops.

 There are already strict restrictions on which Palestinians can enter the Old City because of the tensions over the Al Aqsa Mosque. Only those Palestinian males over 50 or young children are allowed into the Old City. These restrictions have been in place for a few days now, and prevent people from reaching their jobs and their homes.

 Nablus Mosque Receives Demolition Order

 Claiming that the construction of the Salman Al Farisi Mosque is illegal because it does not have the correct building license, Israel has issued a demolition order on the mosque. The residents, who contributed their own money to build this mosque—which is already 3 floors tall, have the option to demolish it themselves or let the Israeli IDF demolish it (which residents will have to pay for!).

 Nonviolent Resistance

 Iraq Bourin

 In Iraq Bourin, a village near Nablus, 6 people were injured as they nonviolently protested against the theft of their land. On the march towards their stolen land, Israeli settlers entered the village to provoke the villagers. The IDF came “to intervene” and fired teargas; rubber coated steel bullets, and sound bombs on the demonstrators. One Danish national was injured.

 Testing New Weapons on Demonstrators

 Many protestors from the past weeks protests have claimed that the IDF is using new weapons—and perhaps even testing these new weapons on West Bank protestors. In Sheikh Jarrah, the IDF soldiers were wearing their ammunition strapped across their chests—instead of bullets it was the high-velocity teargas canisters that killed my friend Bassem in Bil’in, except now the tips of the bullet-shaped teargas canisters are blue. Don’t know what the difference is in practice between the two.

 I also heard that the IDF is testing new explosive devices, but no more details on that yet.

 Sheikh Jarrah

 In Sheikh Jarrah this Friday there were about 300 protestors—mostly Israeli activists. It was the most boring protest I’ve ever been to! We couldn’t even walk down the street to the houses that are supposed to be demolished, which is the point. The police blocked the street with some barriers and that was enough to stop the protest.

 So when the Israeli group arrived from West Jerusalem we all just stood on a little hill by the police barriers and shouted slogans. Then about 5 police/military vans showed up full of Israeli soldiers with the high-velocity blue-tipped teargas canisters strapped across their chests like Rambo. As if they could use those in such a close space, and on Israeli activists?

 I think just to mess with us; they had the police-soldiers push us across the street. This was the only time there was trouble. Some Israeli activists resisted and the police carried them off to be detained for 5 minutes—making a big show for the photographers as they were fighting and being carried away.

 After that, we stood on the other side of the street doing nothing, surrounded by the police who wouldn’t so much as let us step off the sidewalk. Some settlers showed up later and threw stones (the ONLY ones who threw stones at Sheikh Jarrah this week –and normally). They also attacked some people eating in restaurants in the area by stoning them. One was injured.

 Beit Ummar

4 protestors were detained in Beit Ummar protests, including at least one journalist. Several internationals that have been living in the village were assaulted by the Israeli military for no apparent reason.

 Ni’lin

 The protest in Ni’lin this week was in honor of Tristan Anderson, an American activist that was shot in the head by the same high velocity teargas canister that killed Bassem in Bil’in. He was in a coma for about a year and just recently woke up—it’s still not clear what kind of damage the injury and coma have done to his brain. His parents have brought a case against the Israeli military for his injuries.

Rachel Corrie’s parents recently brought a case to the Israeli Supreme Court suing for damages after her death a few years ago when an Israeli soldier driving a bulldozer ran her over. So far, the Israeli government has not accepted any responsibility for their crime.

Bil’in

Bil’in villagers and international activists protested in solidarity with the residents of the Old City in Jerusalem. Dozens were teargassed and 2 children were shot with rubber coated steel bullets.

Nabe Saleh

It was a very violent protest in Nabe Saleh this week. There were reportedly 20 injuries from rubber coated steel bullets, including 3 in the head that required hospital treatment. All of those shot were under 25 years old.

Ehab Barghouthi, 14, who was shot in the head last week with a rubber coated steel bullet that entered his skull above his right eye is now breathing for himself and slowly recovering.

Netanyahu’s Slap in the Face to the US

On the exact day when US VP Biden visited the region to try to advance indirect peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Israeli government announced the approval of 1600 new housing units in illegal settlements around East Jerusalem.

The US has made its position on settlement expansion perfectly clear to the Israeli government–and has agreed with the Palestinian government that peace talks are impossible without a settlement freeze. The announcement and its timing were a slap in the face to the US–who is Israel’s closest (and only?) ally. Without the 7 million dollars a day in military aid the US gives to Israel, the country would be completely insecure.

The arrogance of the Israeli government knows no bounds! Hopefully the US will teach them a little respect. But I doubt it…

Side Note:

Since the West Bank is seriously lacking in nice parks to lay out in the sun in during the summer, my roommate discovered a park in West Jerusalem that has a stream running through it and some trees and everything. We went there yesterday to celebrate the beautiful day.

Today I found out its built on top of an old Palestinian cemetery?! In 1965, the Israeli government decided to relocate the graves of some of the most important leaders and Arab residents of Jerusalem back to 1000 years ago.

During the construction that involved relocating the graves and remains to another site, human remains were reported to be strewn across the site. The Jerusalem authorities were unresponsive to Palestinian outcries against this desecration.

So thats where I was laying in the sun yesterday. #*@&!&! Only in Israel…………

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Weekly Update—3/7/10

March 7, 2010

This week the Israeli military, police and settlers stormed Al Aqsa mosque…afterwards they boys from the Old City started protesting and throwing stones. There were a couple people injured. When will Israel stop provoking the Palestinians????

Abbas is supposed to be starting negotiations again soon because Mitchell is coming back to the area to force Israel and Palestine to start talking again–despite the fact that settlements are growing at 6% (way more than the natural growth in Israel that is 1.5%) and thousands more housing units in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were just approved. So which side doesnt have a “partner for peace”?

This is how it goes, its all for show. Abbas will throw something back at Israel that he knows they won’t agree to like “Without Jerusalem there are no negotiations”…in the meantime, Israel is just confiscating more and more land and building more and more settlements.

This Friday I didn’t go to the protests. But in Nabe Saleh a 14 year old boy was hit in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet- it hit him right in the forehead and entered his skull. Does that sound like a RUBBER BULLET to you?? A few others were injured as well but not seriously. Didnt hear anything about Bil’in or Ni’lin so they must just be the usual teargas inhalation injuries.

We planned a trip to the Dead Sea for Friday afternoon since everyone has that day off. We were planning to go to the monastery by Jericho thats up on the hill (the place where Jesus was tempted by the Devil after fasting for 40 days and 40 nights). Now there is a cable car that takes you from Jericho up to the top and theres a nice restuarant up there too….

Anyways, we didn’t make it there because we got stranded at this “Israeli beach” on the Dead Sea. The northern half of the Dead Sea is technically in the West Bank, but most of the Jordan valley has been occupied by Israel…besides the city of Jericho the land is unofficially Israeli now all the way down the eastern side of the West Bank. So the good beaches have been occupied by Israelis as well.

So we went to one of those, because the Palestinian beaches dont have showers or anything at them. The one we went to was called “Lido” and is surrounded by like a million Israeli flags–just to make sure people realize its Israeli. ha.

It was really crowded with lots of Israelis, Palestinians, Europeans, Indians/Pakistanis, and Japanese tourists. Haha it was such a random mix of people. We stayed there all afternoon for lack of a car….but at 5 our friends finally came over from the waterfall they were at thats a little before Jericho.

They picked us up and we drove further down the Dead Sea towards Ein Gedi. We stopped right before the checkpoint that leads into actual Israeli territory at the Palestinian beach I went to like 6 months ago–the one infected with West Nile virus, ha, because the official Ein Gedi beach was closed since it was sunset.

So I was pretty much the only one who had made the trek down that steep rocky mountain to get to the beach and I tried to tell them it was a bad idea and that since it was sunset there would be billions of west-nile infected mosquitos…but they wouldnt listen.

I stayed up at this little picnic area right next to the soldiers at the checkpoint while the rest of the group went down in the dark. I was being eaten alive by mosquitos and finally asked my friend who stayed up with me to ask the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint for mosquito repellent.

So he walked straight over to the checkpoint manned with Israeli soldiers armed with M-16s and chatted for a minute. Then they gave him their military strength mosquito repellent and made sure to tell us to “put it on our faces too”. hahahahahaha…one minute they’re pointing a gun at you because your in a Palestinian car and the next they’re worried about you getting bitten on your face. If we could all just unite against a common enemy like mosquitos all the time!

Next weekend I am going to the “Roman cave”…one of my friends knows a Palestinian man who discovered roman ruins on his property, in a cave and under his house. He hasnt excavated or anything. There is a small ministry of antiquities in Palestine but they are really ineffective. Most of the time priceless artifacts are found by people building houses, or whenever they dig into the ground for any reason. I met someone in Bethlehem that has a whole collection of artifacts in the space under his stairs. Haha…he is an engineer and whenever they build he finds new artifacts. I know another guy in Hebron who found a very very old human skull and he keeps it on his desk in his office, sometimes painting it different colors. Who knows how old that is!

The Roman Cave guy (and the others) can’t really get anyone official involved because if they find something valuable and the Israelis find out about it, they will confiscate his land. So we are going to document the ruins and everything, without exposing who he is and where he lives.

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Weekly Report….

March 1, 2010

This week there was a lot of trouble in Hebron–a city in southern West Bank. Hebron is notorious for having crazy and aggressive Israeli settlers, even the Israeli soldiers hate being there to protect the settlers because they are provoking the Palestinians all the time. I read in an article that a soldier stationed in Hebron said that it was the place they send soldiers to punish them.

The settlers have been becoming more and more of a presence in the old market place in the middle of Hebron because of the Ibrihimi Mosque/Cave of the Patriarchs–to Jews the tombs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob along with their wives are burried there. For Muslims it is a mosque built by Abraham and his and Sarah’s tombs. It is holy for both religions.

The settlers have been slowly taking over the market place because that’s where the Ibrihimi mosque is located. So an area that was almost 100% Palestinian and an important economic center for Hebron has been almost entirely shut down by the settlers. They have taken over the upstairs apartments of the stores in the market, along with whole areas of the center (H2) around the market.

The settlers throw garbage, stones, glass, sewage water and other things on the Palestinian stores, homes, and people below. They have forced many stores to shut down. The Israeli army, who is required to be there to protect the settlers from themselves, has set up checkpoints within the market, so walking from one store to another you have to go through a checkpoint where the soldiers almost always mess with the Palestinians–many times making them wait 30 minutes while they “check” the IDs.

Meanwhile, you walk through alleyways with chainlink fence hung above to protect the shoppers and Palestinian shopowners from getting hit with debris thrown down by the settlers.

Now, they have taken the judaization of the area around the mosque to a new level. The Israeli government has declared that site, along with Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem to be National Israeli Heritage Sites. Both sites are ouside of “Israel”, they are in the West Bank in the middle of Palestinian towns. Israel seems to be claiming the sites. It will probably make it more difficult that ever for Palestinians to gain access to these sites now, which are holy to them too. The Israeli government will say they want to do “renovations” on the sites, then deny access to everyone while they’re repairing things, everyone except the settlers.

And the government’s timing on this was impeccable as usual. It is simultaneously the annviersary of the Intifada, the Prophet’s birthday, and the anniversary of the Goldstein massacre of Palestinians while they were praying in the Ibrihimi mosque. About 50 people were killed and 100 wounded in this joint operation between Israeli settlers and the IDF. In the following days about 20 more Palestinians were killed when clashes erupted around the West Bank.

After the declaration of the mosque as an Israeli Heritage Site, the Israeli government was just waiting for the Palestininas to react. There were some clashes between the Palestinian youth and the Israeli police/settlers. Teargas, soundbombs, rubber bullets…A couple dozen injured.

My roommate Lazar went down there for a couple days to take photos and he told me that the Palestinian Authority was working with the Israeli police/IDF to control the Palestinian youth. The PA and the IDF…working together against Palestinians protesting a new aspect of the occupation. Its completely ridiculous–and its the guys who the US have been helping to train in Jericho and Jordan.

The clashes ended up slowing down despite Haniyeh (Hamas) calling for a new Inifada. I think thats what Israel wanted anyways, a lot of my friends agree with that too. Israel is getting so much pressure from the international community to restart the peace process that they are looking for any excuse to say “We dont have a partner for peace”–even while the PA is working with them to punish their own people.

Luckily, the Palestinians are either too tired from the still fresh memory of the last intifada or just being patient until they can actually stand a chance in an Intifada.

Just another proof that the Israeli government is trying to provoke the Palestinians into reacting in an Intifada, as soon as the Hebron mess calmed down, the Israeli settlers and police in Jerusalem stormed Al Aqsa mosque (the third holiest site in Islam). They clashed with Palestinians inside and more of the youth that came to throw stones after they invaded the mosque.

Anyways, the situation is getting tense because of all the Israeli provocations but so far the Palestinian people seem to be staying as calm as possible. An Intifada would be the worst thing for them right now, and Israel knows that. Soon, hopefully, the world will put enough pressure on Israel to continue negotiations, final status negotiations.

The EU is working on an initiative to support Palestine in declaring statehood. Israel came back at them saying if the Palestinians declare a state then they won’t have to negotiate anymore so that couldn’t work for anyone. But obviously, declaring a state doesn’t make the Israeli soldiers, checkpoints, and settlements disappear. It doesnt bring back the refugees either. So there will have to be negotiations, it will just prevent Israel from occupying more of Palestine as they pretend to negotiate.

Hopefully this initiative will work…

The protests this week were pretty much washed out by the weather, I didn’t go because of the hail and rain. But there were still small groups of demonstrators at Bil’in, Ni’lin, Nabe Saleh, Al Masara, and Sheikh Jarrah.

The protests were focused on the Israeli takeover of the holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem. The injuries were mostly gas inhalation, except in Nabe Saleh where a boy was hit in the head with a rubber bullet. I dont know exactly what his condition is, but if it was the rubber coated steel bullets–which is what the IDF almost exclusively uses now as “rubber bullets” then he should be in pretty bad shape.

In Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem protestors dressed up in Purim costumes to demonstrate against the house demolitions.

My roommates and friends and I also went out to celebrate Purim. We went to Jerusalem on Saturday night with wigs and checked out a few parties. The weather was pretty bad so there werent hundreds of people out in the street like last year but it was still fun.

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Experience a Nonviolent Protest in Palestine

February 24, 2010

Experience a  Nonviolent Protest in Palestine:

We gather at the center of the village in time for the Friday noon prayer.  The men and women from the village gather at the mosque to pray while Palestinians, Internationals, Israelis, and press arrive from Israel and all over the West Bank.

We wait outside the mosque in a growing crowd as the khutbah finishes in the mosque and the people pray. There are  familiar faces for those that go to the protests regularly—most times people that you don’t see any other time that at various protests around the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Everyone chats and mills around until the prayer is finished.

There’s always some new people—usually Americans or Europeans—who have never been to a protest before in their lives. They make sure their camera batteries are charged and adjust their colored kuffiyehs around their necks. They seem excited and a little nervous.

Then the shabab from the village and other places around the West Bank show up…usually wearing kuffiyehs or some other kind of scarf or shirt over their faces. They do this to avoid being photographed by the Israeli army and subsequently arrested, and of course to protect themselves from teargas. A few hold slingshots and some are gathering stones from the side of the street. They are making jokes and relaxed, but ready for the soldiers.

The village popular struggle committee leader arrives with a loudspeaker that he tries, usually in vain, to control the protest. We start by marching all together towards the site of the Apartheid Wall.

As we march, the leaders chant slogans in Arabic, Hebrew, and sometimes English like “La, la al jidar”…phrases about the wall falling, Israel being fascist (chanted most emphatically by the Israeli activists), and an end to the occupation.

We get closer to the site of the wall, and the soldiers come into view ahead of us. (In some villages, there is a fence between the soldiers and the protestors, in most though, the soldiers meet the protestors in the street, fields, or even inside the village before we even have a chance to march to the wall).

In most cases, we go as far as we can, still shouting for an end to the occupation, and the leader with the loudspeaker has managed to keep the shabaab from throwing stones so far. The Israel military is usually the one who starts the violence first—either because we walk “too close” to them or make it across to the villagers’ stolen land (which is now used as a security buffer zone, or for a settlement to be built on, or for a “Jewish only road”).

Sometimes the Israeli military ‘warns’ us over their own loudspeakers that our demonstration is “illegal” and that we are in a “closed military zone” and that if we don’t leave we “will be hurt.” These phrases pretty much mean that we are demonstrating at our own risk and if anything happens to us, the Israeli army, as usual, has its ‘out’ because they ‘warned’ us.  

They have a range of ‘sound effects’ to use during the demonstration if they are bored or just in the mood. One is a piercing high pitched sound that is emitted over the loudspeaker and forces you to go as far away as possible or else your ears will be in a lot of pain. On the humorous side, they also have what sounds like the sound effects from a military training video game or something- from the Americans of course.  It has an alarm noise, then an American-accented military official says “Warning, small boat approaching a navy vessel!” It’s so strange.

IDF Response

The military usually opens up with some teargas grenades shot straight at the protestors, not at the internationally agreed upon 45 degree angle for civilian crowd dispersal. At the first shots, we usually lose about half of the protestors—the ones that have never been teargassed before and aren’t excited about trying it.

So even though the grenades and canisters land nowhere near them, those demonstrators are halfway back to the village in seconds and don’t come back to the front.

After that, the man with the loudspeaker can’t do anything to stop the shabaab from throwing stones at the Israeli military. They are the ones in the front, the ones who aren’t afraid of being face to face with a soldier who is aiming a gun in your direction—that situation is familiar to them even for preteens.

They fan out to different areas in the fields to get some kind of protection from their position behind a rock terrace or near an olive tree. They sling stone after stone at the soldiers behind the fence or behind their riot gear (including a full length plastic shield, padded uniforms, helmet and plastic mask for their faces.  The soldiers seem scared. SCARED behind their gear, not to mention ammunition. They are literally scared of a 10 year old boy holding a slingshot who is more likely to hit another boy than a soldier.

But every once in a while we hear cheering and “Allahu Akbars” when the shabaab hit a jeep or a soldier’s shield with one of the stones. Sometimes they throw balloons full of pink paint at the soldiers too…which is funny because I see Israeli jeeps every once in a while on the roads with pink paint splatters on the side.

Darban Truck

After the first volleys of stones and teargas, the Israeli army gets serious. In the summer time, they bring in the ‘Darban’ truck. This is one of the most ridiculously base and evil thing the Israelis have created—it is a white truck that drives up and starts shooting a huge spray of what looks like green water. For someone who hasn’t experienced the darban, they would think it was basic crowd control with a water hose.

Not in Palestine—imagine the worst smells you can think of, ones that would make you want to puke. Now mix all of those together and you still have no idea what this is like. We don’t know for sure how they make it, but the theories are that it is a mixture of sewage water (from settlers), sulfur and other chemicals, and animal parts (cow intestines is a popular rumor).

Regardless of what it is made of, it smells like shit and skunk mixed together and multiplied by a million in terms of foulness. If you get a drop on your skin you will smell for days. If you step on the ground where it has been sprayed your shoes will smell for days.

There are always a few people who either don’t know to run as fast as possible or think it is just water or who are just trapped and can’t get away. They get completely drenched in this shit water. I will never forget the scene from last week at Bil’in after the soldiers shot the shit water.

Bil’in 5 Year Anniversary

It was the beginning of the protest, the soldiers were not even at the wall yet. And it was the 5 year anniversary of Bil’ins protests against the wall, so there were about a 1000 protestors (usually a couple hundred) and lots of international press. The more press and internationals there are the safer the protest because the Israelis wouldn’t want to get caught doing anything too crazy by someone who can show it around the world.

So the shabaab took advantage of that fact and started literally tearing down the two fences that are the future site of the wall. These are strong metal, barbed wired, razor wired tall fences with surveillance cameras on them and everything. The boys just started pulling the fence, then jumping on it, and eventually pulled down both fences and made it to their stolen land on the other side!

When the soldiers saw this, they went crazy and drove up in jeeps and brought the darban truck. It was too fast for the press or the shabaab in the front to get away and about 50 people got completely showered in the shit water! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before at a protest.  Mass retching and puking. People pulling off their clothes to try to get rid of the smell. I saw one very tall Palestinian man walking around dazed without his pants—he had the longest legs, and short boxers, and big hiking boots. It was one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen in my life.

The smell of the shit water dominated the entire area, and got worse as the people who were soaked in it mixed in with the rest of us. Just when we started to recover from the darban attack, the IDF shot “Al Thuletheen” the teargas cannon that shoots out over 40 teargas canisters simultaneously. They shoot in all directions, like rockets with teargas smoke behind them in trails.

When we hear the popping noise of 40 gas canisters being shot within seconds of eachother, everyone panics. The ones who have never seen that type of teargas attack run back to the village as fast as they can and don’t dare to come back. The more seasoned protestors have two options. You can try to outrun the canisters and the huge teargas cloud that occurs after it, or if you know you can’t outrun them through a cloud of teargas and falling canisters all around you—you find a spot by a wall or something out of the way, crouch down, put a scarf over your face and wait.

You will feel panicked, and you think that you can’t breathe. But the trick is to stay calm and remember that within minutes, the cloud will disperse.

Israeli Army Targeting Nonviolent Protestors

Other times the IDF will shoot individual teargas canisters or grenades or bullet shaped high velocity canisters like missiles at the shabaab and press. You can see them flying right past people’s heads. Sometimes they hit people though. And if they hit you in the head, it can cause at the very least a severe injury, if not coma or death.

Tristan Anderson, an American protestor who was demonstrating at Ni’lin last spring, was hit in the head by a high velocity teargas canister that was shot straight at him, instead of up in the air at an angle. Typical.

After he was hit, his head was bleeding profusely and he was knocked to the ground unconscious. People came to help, but they were in a field and the Israeli army had invaded the village and wasn’t letting any ambulance in to help. His friends were screaming for help, and the IDF was STILL shooting teargas at him and those trying to help him. When the ambulance arrived, the IDF shot teargas that hit the ambulance and created a cloud of teargas around those trying to get Tristan into the ambulance.

He’s just now coming out of his coma, after almost a year. They aren’t sure how much of “Tristan” is left though.

Ni’lin Deaths

Another time in Ni’lin, this past summer, during a particularly violent protest where the soldiers were shooting live ammunition instead of the rubber coated steel bullets (which can still kill you if they hit you in the head or neck, or break a bone in another place).  A young boy from the village was shot in the stomach with live ammunition. Yousef Aqel Srour ran out to where he lay to take him back to the ambulance. As he tried to pick up the boy, the IDF sniper shot Yousef directly in the heart with live ammunition—killing him instantly.

A total of 5 nonviolent protestors have been killed in Ni’lin so far, the youngest was just 10 years old and was shot in the head with a so-called rubber bullet.

Bassem Abu Rahmeh

I wasn’t there for either of those events, but I had one terrible experience at Bil’in about a year ago. It was a small protest, it was cold so a lot of people didn’t want to come out and protest. We had no ambulance because it wasn’t a special protest with lots of internationals or important people.

This was the last protest where most people felt safe in the front, standing face to face with the soldiers.

I was already a bit back behind a wall because I had been shot in the back of the legs with a teargas grenade a week or so before. And the soldiers were shooting the high velocity teargas canisters that are shaped like bullets. As I was waiting for the shooting to slow down, I heard a lot of shouting all of a sudden and thought maybe a stone had found its mark.

Then I was able to understand what the guys were shouting. “ASA’AF!” and “SAYARA!!”….over and over and over in upset and desperate voices. The guys in the front yelled it back to the people in the back, and then they would shout it to people further back towards the village until someone with a car got the message.

This went on for what seemed like hours, but was really about 6 minutes. Then a little beat up 2 door car came speeding down the road towards the wall and by this time I had gone further towards the wall (there were only about 20 people left at the protest at this point).  I saw what I thought was one of the boys from the village laying on the ground surrounded by people. The fucking Israeli army was still shooting teargas at them.

When the car got to the front, the teargas canisters were shot at the car too. The men from the village were completely freaked out. I thought maybe the boy had been shot in the leg or something. But then I saw them pick him up to bring him to the car. He was completely limp. He was wearing a neon yellow jersey and it was covered with bright red blood. Absolutely covered. That’s when I realized that this guy was probably going to die.

They finally got him in the car; men were crying and shouting trying to get him to the hospital. The car sped off in a shower of teargas canisters and the men from the village ran up to the fence and started yelling at the soldiers in Hebrew and the boys threw more stones than I’ve seen before. The soldiers just took it. They knew they had fucked up.

The older men from the village ended the protest as news started making its way to the village that someone was badly injured. On the way back, I was really shaken up. I didn’t recognize who it was but I had never seen someone injured that badly in front of me before, that much blood.

 A minute later, I found out it was a friend of mine from the village—Bassem Abu Rahmeh. He was the first person to say hi to me when I came to the protests and he came over to shake my hand every Friday and ask how I was. He was a big and strong guy, but with the heart of a child and a huge smile always on his face.  He used to yell at me to be careful in Arabic every Friday, yelling but winking and with a huge smile, carrying his cell phone blasting Arabic music.

As we got closer to the village, women from Bil’in were out of their houses, crying and trying to figure out who was shot. I saw my friend’s mom crying and walking towards us, asking about her sons. We told her they were fine, but Bassem was on his way to the hospital (the nearest is Ramallah hospital, half an hour away and not that great).

A minute later the sheikh started talking and reciting the Quran over the mosque loudspeaker and we realized Bassem had died. The whole village was weeping in the streets and wandering around looking shocked and confused.

My impression of the villagers of Bil’in is that they are some of the strongest, most resilient and brave people, but still with a sense of humor. That day I saw them falling apart and it was almost as disturbing to me as knowing a friend of mine had been murdered in cold blood in front of me.

Bassem had been standing in the very front of the protest, in front of the fence, with the soldiers on the other side. The soldiers were shooting at some Israeli activists in between the two fences and they injured one with a soundbomb that went off right under him. Bassem was yelling in Hebrew at the soldiers “Reka!” (Hebrew for ‘stop’). He had never thrown a stone in his life; he didn’t even have that capability in his personality.

As he was yelling for the soldiers to stop shooting, in a BRIGHT yellow jersey, less than 20 feet away, he was shot in the middle of his chest with a high velocity teargas canister that is shaped like a bullet. He fell on the ground with a huge hole in his chest and died less than 15 minutes later.

Targeting Protest Organizers and Village Leaders

After Bassem was killed, the IDF killed Yousef in Ni’lin. Bassem was one of the leaders of the Bil’in protests, always in the front. Yousef was also a protest organizer. A few months later the IDF started a massive arrest campaign in Bil’in focusing on the Bil’in Popular Struggle Committee leaders and teenagers in general—whether they had thrown a stone or not. They arrested at least 40 men and boys from Bil’in over the past summer, most were detained but never charged.

Just now, 6 months later, are some of the teenage boys being returned to the village and their families. Of course, the families had to pay tens of thousands of shekels for lawyers and the bail.

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Weekly Update: 2/14/10

February 14, 2010

PA Corruption Scandal

Well, there is a lot of things going on this week…the biggest news is this mass corruption scandal in the PA. Apparently the head of the anti-corruption office in the PA was fired over some petty fight and in reaction he gave a lot of information, tapes and video tapes to an Israeli group who should publicize one piece of corruption a day until Abbas and the PA get their act together and get rid of corruption.

They don’t think there’s anything in it about Abbas specifically but theres stories like someone in the PA in charge of buying land for a project …when he asked for money he put it in dollars instead of shekels (over one million) and kept the difference for himself. And of course there is supposedly a sex tape as well.

Sometimes I can’t decide who is better, Hamas or Fateh? Even though Hamas has its issues, it doesnt coordinate with Israel and it doesnt have the same level of corruption as far as I know. Maybe they would if they could…haha.

PA as Israel’s Enforcer in the West Bank

Anyways I was reading a book a friend of mine’s, Ahmed, brother wrote (half of their family is in Gaza, and he is the one who wrote the story “A story that needs to be told” thats in the ‘notes’ section on my facebook–its about their whole family being split between West Bank, Gaza, and England–without the chance to see eachother) The book–called Remember Gaza– was about the Gaza war. He wrote it from the perspective of someone who has family down there, and can only watch and wait.

Its a really powerful book and it reminded me of some weird things that went on at that time too. There were lots of demonstrations in Ramallah during the war and the PA security would always be there. At first I thought they were participating. But then I realized they were doing ‘crowd control’ to make sure it didnt get to the point where demonstrators went to any checkpoints to throw stones.

Ahmed was telling me the other day that he went with a big group of friends walking one night in the general direction of Beit El (a settlement on the outskirts of Ramallah). He said they were just going somewhere they could drink a beer without getting in trouble (theres lots of fields and land between the settlement and the city).

On the way, some PA army guys came over to them and asked them if they were going to throw stones at the settlement. They said no…but the soldiers kept interrogating them and saying “shame on you for going to throw stones!”. Then they arrested the kids and beat them up a little bit in the police station! This is the PA. And thats why everyone thinks they are collaborators with Israel, Israel’s puppet.

Even my friend who is a captain in the PA is getting fed up with the PA—because after that last incident where the IDF came and assassinated 3 men in Nablus who were at some point associated with the Al Aqsa brigades (but had nothing to do with the settler stabbing)–the PA basically arrested Wajdi and anyone else who was ever associated with the Al Aqsa brigades. They wouldnt let him leave Al Muqata or talk to anyone on the outside. So he just wants to finish the PA now…

“Terrorist Attacks”

There were a couple of “terrorist” attacks on soldiers this week. One for sure was real–a man stabbed a soldier while he was sitting in his jeep. He was arrested afterwards. Then the checkpoints went up all over the West Bank…ha.

A day or two later, there was another supposed attack. But in this case theres no injured or dead soldier, just a dead Palestinian. So I think maybe it was a random revenge attack….because there is usually at least one person killed at a checkpoint ever few weeks. And usually the eyewitness accounts dont match the Israeli official report. Hmmm….?

Bil’in

In Bil’in this week all of the villagers wore Avatar masks to the wall–because in the movie the aliens planet was being colonized by the humans. They are so funny and creative in Bil’in. And next week is their 5 year anniversary of the protests. So I will be going back to Bil’in next Friday for sure…

Nabe Saleh

I went again to Nabe Saleh even though its getting crazier and crazier. But we had a car this week from a friend and everyone wanted to go there instead of Bil’in so I caved to peer pressure, hahaha. Anyways, it was so strange this week.

Since Nabe Saleh started protesting, the Israelis have been setting up new temporary checkpoints around the West Bank and blocking the main roads that go to villages that protest. So we always have to drive for an extra 20 or 30 minutes to get to Nabe Saleh, which is like 15 minutes from Ramallah. Its funny, on the way back from the protest we drive for about 20 minutes and then come around the bend right in front of Nabe Saleh, again. Hahaha….its ridiculous.

So anyways, we drove into the village and there were no soldiers anywhere. We all have teargas masks now–thanks to Israels policy of giving out gasmasks to everyone outside the Green Line–which includes some friends of mine (Palestinian) who loaned them to us. Hahaha…..so ironic!

We waited for the protestors to come down from the center of the village and I watched from my spot at the gas station as they marched down the road way past where the soldiers usually stop them. Now we were confused! hahaha, what do we do if there are no soldiers? We win???

So they all marched off the road down a valley to get to their land–which is the purpose of the protest–to get to their spring that the settlers took over a month ago.

My roommate and I climbed on the mountain overlooking the valley where they were marching in the direction of the settlement across the highway. On the opposite mountain, there were about 30 settlers sitting and watching the protest. At first they were marching down the hill and we thought they were going to clash with the Palestinians, but instead they ended up making a BBQ. ha.

So the army jeeps pull up on the highway…cars are still driving by through all of this. The villagers make it to the highway but the soldiers stop them from crossing it by shooting LOTS of teargas, the teargas cannon, rubber coated steel bullets and soundbombs.

After a while, the border police drive up in vans for arresting protestors and taking them away. Luckily, no one got arrested!

Eventually, half of the jeeps drove back to the bottom of the road leading out of the village where there is a small checkpoint and watch tower–a little further down than where the protest usually happens on that road.

Then most of the protestors in the valley by the highway moved back up to the road and split the protest in half. After that, we walked back and did a few interviews with some villagers in their house. This family owns some of the land that was confiscated by the settlers. They said one day they went to their land and the settlers were on it making a BBQ and swimming in the spring. The Palestinians asked them what they were doing there and they said, “Oh we just want to swim in the spring sometimes”.

The next time they went to their land the settlers were there again, with shovels–pretending to work on the land. The Palestinian who owned the land asked them to leave. And the settlers came at him with the shovels and threatened to hit him. After that, the settlers were a constant presence at the spring and the villagers can’t use it anymore.

The ‘father’ of their family, because they are the ones who own the land and have the most to be angry about, is not allowed to be in the village at all on Friday afternoons. Hes 60 years old. And the IDF comes to take him somewhere else every Friday.

Its such a messed up situation.

I had some really good videos from the protest but unfortunately I got robbed Friday night in Jerusalem. Someone took my wallet, camera, mp3 and maybe some other things I havent realized yet…

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Weekly Update:

February 8, 2010

 NONVIOLENT PROTESTS:

 Nabe Saleh

 So last Friday in Nabe Saleh it was pandemonium. The villagers blocked all the roads into the village so that the Israeli army jeeps couldn’t enter the village. The demonstration started out very violent—the soldiers shooting tons of teargas and rubber coated steel bullets. Before long, the boys from the village were throwing stones. Then the Israeli army called in the Border Police.

 The Border Police are called in when the army expects a lot of arrests to be made. They are also a more violent version of the soldiers who are usually stationed at the protests. My roommate Lazar said he saw one of the border policemen shooting rubber coated steel bullets like a machine gun at the kids while screaming and yelling like Rambo—completely enjoying himself. All that was missing from that picture was the “born to kill” written across his helmet like some of the soldiers have.

 The soldiers were spread out on a road that leads to the village while the boys and other demonstrators were on the hill that sits over the road. Lazar was taking photos with a few other press guys (wearing the bright press vests) about 50 meters away from the closest boys throwing stones. For some reason, the soldiers decided to shoot him in the head with a rubber coated steel bullet. Now, although it has “rubber” in the name, this bullet is metal and the size of a large marble. It has a paper thin coating of rubber over it—that’s the Israeli’s version of rubber bullets I guess.

 If one of them hits you in the head, you will either be severely injured with likely brain damage, in a coma, or dead. My roommate Lazar, for the entire year he has been here in Palestine and going to these weekly demonstrations, has never invested in a helmet. He has a gas mask and a borrowed bullet proof vest but never found a helmet—until a few days before last Friday’s protest. He bought a plastic construction helmet for 25 shekels (8 dollars). And it saved his life!

 Later during the protest, Lazar was talking to a friend of ours, Ahmed, in the field behind the boys throwing stones at the soldiers—who were shooting at the boys with rubber coated steel bullets, teargas, soundbombs, and some live ammunition. As he was chatting with Ahmed, another rubber coated steel bullet hit him in the stomach. Luckily, he was too far from the soldiers for it to do much damage. But it was definitely a dangerous day to be at Nabe Saleh.

 About a dozen were hit with rubber coated steel bullets on Friday, none serious. One boy was hit 5 times!

 (For pictures from Nabe Saleh this week, look on Palestinemonitor.org)

 Bil’in

 In Bil’in, the demonstration is a lot smaller now because of the arresting campaign the Israelis have carried out against the village. Over 40 boys and men have been arrested so far for “participation in an illegal demonstration”. Ha. What’s illegal is the settlement Israel built on their land. What’s illegal is the wall the Israelis built on their land, and to steal land.

 The court decision that was made when Bil’in brought their case to the Israeli Supreme Court and won looks like its finally going to be at least partially carried out. They won another 100 meters of their own land back a couple years ago in that court. But so far, the Israeli government has not acquiesced to that decision and has kept up construction on the existing route.

 One of the guys from Bil’in that everyone told us was a spy got arrested the other day by the Israelis. Don’t know why that happened? He was always in the front of the demonstration throwing stones at the soldiers, never taking cover or running away when they started shooting—it was so obvious that he was a spy. And he was never arrested even when all the others who regularly went to the protests were arrested—especially being in the front of the demo all the time where soldiers can easily take his picture and arrest him later. So, he will probably be kept for a few days, maybe weeks, then released. It could be a game by the Israelis to make the village trust him again, or it could be he wouldn’t cooperate with them anymore.

 Ni’lin, Al Masara

 Dozens were injured by teargas but there were no serious injuries.

 International Solidarity Movement (ISM) Arrests

 The ISM is an organization that was created at the beginning of the Second Intifada to get internationals over here to witness what was happening to the Palestinian people. At the beginning, they were a valuable group for Palestine because they would go and actually live in villages being oppressed by the Israeli military and see things first hand.

 However, now, the ISM people mostly gravitate towards the areas with the most “action” and where they have the greatest chance to fight with Israeli soldiers. For many of them, getting arrested or deported is a status thing—and its like a game to them to see how many times they can get arrested until they get deported. After that, they change their names and come back through Israel with a new passport.

 They chain themselves to olive trees and generally just increase the violence and anger from Israeli soldiers in any given situation. So now, I would say they are doing more harm than good—which would be different if they followed stricter rules on what they are allowed to do here.

 Anyways, there are a lot of them in the West Bank who have expired visas now because they know if they try to leave and come back on a new visa, the Israelis have their names and pictures from times when they were chained to olive trees and such so they have no chance of renewing their visa. So instead, they stay in the West Bank as long as they can.

 The Israelis have caught on to this—first by arresting ISM people at protests and looking at their passports and seeing they don’t have visas—unlike the rest of us who have jobs here and either have work visas or leave every three months to renew our ‘tourist visas’. Now the Israeli military has taken it so far as to raid Ramallah in the middle of the night to arrest these ISM people with expired visas.

 Last night they raided the Ramallah ISM office and arrested two ISM people—one from Spain and one from Australia. They will probably be detained for a few days then deported and banned forever from Israel (and thus Palestine).

 Al-Shufat Refugee Camp Arrests

 The Israeli military raided Al Shufat Refugee Camp—a camp on the outskirts of East Jerusalem that holds 25,000 Palestinians who were driven from their homes in Jerusalem. The military arrested up to 60 people from the camp—most with political affiliations and some that the Israelis claim were ‘wanted.’

 Goldstone Report

 Israel once and for all dismissed the Goldstone Report “without apology.” They have won, because of the American veto on UN actions. So now, they will most likely get away with all the war crimes and murders of innocent men, women and children in Gaza. And they didn’t even apologize. Ha.

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Videos from Nabe Saleh Demonstration: House Teargassed 1/29/10

February 3, 2010

Nabe Saleh is a village north of Ramallah in the West Bank. About a month ago, they began organizing weekly protests against the illegal Israeli settlement that is built on their land. In addition to taking agricultural land from the village, the settlers recently took over a natural well that is on Nabe Saleh’s land. That is why the villagers decided to start protesting regularly.

PART 1:

PART 2:

click here:

PART 3:

3 weeks ago, the women in the house from this video were arrested for nonviolently protesting the theft of their village’s land. They were released on the condition that they would stay in their house during the Friday protests.

The next Friday, the women were in their house when the Israeli soldiers shot a teargas grenade through their window. Their house began to fill up with teargas, so the mother went outside to get some air and ran straight into the soldiers waiting for her. The soldiers started hitting her in the stomach with their automatic weapons, and her 2 daughters came outside to help her.

They started fighting with the soldiers and the rest of the villagers came to help. The women ended up being arrested and released on 10,000 shekel bail each (over 3,000 dollars) and that they would not attend the demonstrations.

The next Friday demonstration (1/29/10) is when I took these videos. I went into the women’s house to interview them as the demonstration was going outside. Suddenly, a teargas grenade came through the window and started filling up the house with teargas. There were about a dozen young children watching TV in the nursery.

Since the gas cloud was blocking the exit, we couldn’t get all the kids out of the house (plus the demonstration was right outside now, soldiers were shooting teargas, rubber coated steel bullets, the skunk water, and live ammunition….so you can’t just run outside blinded by teargas into that situation…).

We got everyone into a room and closed the door to wait out the teargas….