Posts Tagged ‘Ni’lin’


Weekly Post: 4 Boys Killed in 24 Hours

March 21, 2010

 1,600 Illegal Settlement Housing Units Approved in East Jerusalem

 Well, this week has been especially violent. The Israeli provocations began with the announcement of the approval of 1,600 more housing units for illegal Jewish settlements on occupied territory around East Jerusalem. This announcement coincided with the visit of Vice President Biden of the U.S.—who was visiting the region in an attempt to restart the stalled indirect peace talks between Israel and Palestine—and is seen by many Americans as a slap in the face.

 Because of this announcement, and Netanyahu’s failure to call President Obama to tell him whether he would allow the plan to proceed, the Quartet meeting which was supposed to decide the next step in the peace process couldn’t accomplish anything. Works out well for Israel…

 Ibrihimi Mosque Takeover, Protests in Hebron and Beit Ummar

 The other provocation was the Israeli takeover of the Ibrihimi Mosque in Hebron—a site that has religious importance to both Judaism and Islam because it was built by Abraham/Ibrihim, a patriarch of both religions. Many Palestinians see this as the first step of the Israeli government’s takeover of more Muslim religious sites in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

 There have been violent protests in Hebron in response to the takeover. Most of them have been subdued by the Palestinian Authority—reinforcing the common belief that the PA is working with the Israeli military against their own people.

 Residents of Beit Ummar, a village near Hebron, have also organized protests against the Israeli policies. Dozens have been injured and arrested.

 Hurva Synagogue Reopened

 These fears were somewhat realized when the Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish quarter of East Jerusalem was opened last week. This synagogue is symbolic of the Jewish people returning Jerusalem to them as their “undivided, eternal capital.”

 There is also a prediction from the Vilna Gaon that the third time this synagogue is rebuilt, the Jewish people will start construction on the Third Temple—which would have to be built on the same place as the 1st and 2nd temples, meaning the place where Al Aqsa stands (the Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam).

 The opening of the Hurva Synagogue was supposed to be followed by an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish march around the Temple Mount (Al Aqsa compound) which would culminate in them laying the cornerstone of the Third Temple—symbolizing the destruction of Al Aqsa and the coming of the Messiah.

 Luckily, the Israeli police decided that would be too much of a provocation considering how much protesting had already been going on around the Old City. It is still a planned event, but it is not sure when they will be able to do it.

  East Jerusalem Protests

 Because of these events, along with the closure of the Old City to any Palestinian men under the age of 50, there have been protests all over East Jerusalem (in the Old City, Shuafat Refugee Camp, Qalandia, Eisawiyya, and Wadi Joz) over the past week. So far, over 250 Palestinians have been arrested (many of them teenagers who were suspected of throwing stones). There have been almost 100 injuries.

 Shuafat Refugee Camp

 I went to the protest at Shuafat on Saturday. The Israeli soldiers closed off the entrance to the camp. In the early afternoon, young kids began throwing stones at the soldiers who had closed their camp.

 The Israeli soldiers shot teargas and rubber coated steel bullets at the children, ending with 11 injuries and 15 arrests.

 Qalandia Refugee Camp

 On Friday, I went to the Qalandia protests. There were hundreds of teenagers and young Palestinians out in the street leading to the checkpoint. They were throwing stones at the occupation soldiers.

 The soldiers were shooting a lot of teargas, at head level, like rockets shooting down the street. There were dozens injured who were protesting, none serious.

 Palestinian Man Beaten and Thrown off Balcony by Israeli soldiers

 There had been protests all week at Qalandia, and the Israeli soldiers had taken positions on top of an apartment building in order to be able to shoot the kids more efficiently. They invaded the home of 25 year old Abdullah Lafee on the third floor, and beat him while he was sitting in his home.

 After they had beaten him to the point that his face was split open, they threw him off the 3rd storey balcony. And didn’t stop there…

 They went to where he fell and beat him again. He is still alive, but nearly every bone in his body is broken and at least one organ is ruptured.

  Bil’in and Ni’lin

 Earlier this week, the Israeli military declared Bil’in and Ni’lin to be “closed military areas”. This means that no international or Israeli activists are allowed to be in the protest areas on Fridays—effectively stopping the nonviolent resistance movements there.

 At Bil’in on Friday, there were hardly any international or Israeli activists there. The few protestors that were there marched to the wall to find there were no Israeli soldiers. The protest ended soon after.

 In Ni’lin, the entire village was closed by the Israeli military, preventing any activists from reaching the demonstration. One Palestinian protestor was shot and injured, but is in stable condition.

 Nabe Saleh

 Because Ni’lin and Bil’in protests were prevented by the Israeli military, most of the international and Israeli activists went to Nabe Saleh instead. This Friday was one of the most violent protests so far in the village.

 10 village homes were attacked and invaded—reinforcing the Palestinian belief that Israelis don’t differentiate between protestor and civilian.

 25 protestors were shot indiscriminately by the Israeli military with teargas canisters and rubber coated steel bullets. Several American and Israeli activists were among those shot, and several were also arrested.

 A 14 year old Palestinian boy was shot and is not in a coma.

 An 82 year old woman was shot in the head with a teargas canister and has been brain damaged.

 4 Boys Dead in Nablus Area

 In Iraq Bourin, a village close to Nablus, 2 teenage boys were killed by the Israeli military while nonviolently protesting the theft of their land. One was shot in the heart with live ammunition and the other was shot in the head with live ammunition.

 Their funerals were held today, and were attended by thousands of Palestinians.

 Earlier today, 2 more teenage boys were killed while working in their fields outside of Awarta village near an Israeli checkpoint. They were approached by Israeli soldiers asking for their IDs, and then were shot in cold blood.

 The first IDF statement was that the boys attacked the soldiers with pitchforks. That statement was immediately denied by all the villagers. Later, the IDF spokesperson admitted that the boys had been working in the fields with farming tools and that the soldiers had gunned them down without being attacked.

A third boy was injured in the Israeli attack, and taken away by the soldiers. He was thought to be dead, but has just been returned alive—as the only Palestinian witness to what actually happened, the fact that he is alive and returned may be why the IDF changed their statement about the “attack” on the soldiers.


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.


 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 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…………


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.


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.


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.


Another Nonviolent Protester Shot in Ni’lin Demonstration…

December 4, 2009

19 year old Hasan Khaled Nafa was shot in the groin by an Israeli soldier with an illegal tutu bullet at Ni’lin’s weekly nonviolent protest against the wall.

According to medics, Nafa lost a great deal of blood and was treated with a transfusion at the scene before being transfered to the Ramallah Government Hospital. Tutu bullets have been outlawed by Israeli courts since 2001, but have recently started being used again by Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military spokesman insists that this type of bullet is reserved for “especially violent rioters” who pose a threat to the Israeli soldiers.

How 19 year old Nafa, armed with just a stone, posed a significant enough threat to an Israeli soldier, in full riot gear and carrying a gun, to be shot with the deadly tutu bullet is unknown.

In fact, how any of the nonviolent protesters that have been specifically targeted and killed by Israeli soldiers this past year in Ni’lin and Bil’in posed a “significant threat” to the soldiers is unknown–especially 10 year old Ahmed Mussa who was shot in the head with live ammunition last winter in Ni’lin while nonviolently protesting the theft of his village’s land.

Unfortunately, as the nonviolent protests against the wall become more widespread in villages who have lost land around the West Bank–the Israeli military’s response has become more and more violent. They have specifically targeted community and protest organizers–killing them–in Ni’lin and Bil’in, the two villages with the longest running protests.

In Ni’lin, they shot Yusef Srour in the heart with live ammunition as he was going to help a teenage boy who was shot in the stomach with live ammunition. In Bil’in, they shot Bassem Abu Rahmeh in the chest with a high velocity teargas canister, shaped like a bullet–killing him in a matter of minutes.

In addition to the deadly ammunition that is becomming more and more commonly used by the Israeli military at these protests, they have other tactics to scare the villagers into stopping the demonstrations.

In Bil’in, for the past several months, the Israeli military has been raiding the village at least several times a week and arresting teenage boys that are accused of participating in the protests–which have been deemed “illegal” by the Israeli military. So far, almost 40 boys have been arrested. Very few have been actually charged with a crime…most have been waiting for months without any progress.

In Ni’lin, as usual, the Israeli military’s tactics have been even more violent than in Bil’in. The military will completely close the village, and put it under curfew, as well as conducting loud and aggressive night raids on the village.


Protesters Hurt in Ni’lin Demonstration

November 30, 2009

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Several people were injured after protesters launched an anti-wall rally in the West Bank village of Nil’in on Saturday, Palestinian and Israeli sources said.

In a statement, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said eight demonstrators were wounded and one arrested.

In a surprise move, demonstrators used bolt cutters to open one of the gates in the Israeli barrier, which is built across the village’s land, the statement said. Israeli soldiers then arrived, firing tear gas rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition.

The committee said seven demonstrators were injured by rubber-coated metal bullets, and a one and a half year-old child was evacuated to a Ramallah hospital after soldiers fired a tear gas canister into her house.

For the first time since demonstrator Aqel Sadeq Srour was shot dead by an Israeli soldier in June, the Israeli forces crossed the barrier and invaded residential areas of Ni’lin, groups involved in the protest said. Srour’s brother was arrested on Saturday while in the village’s center, according to the Coordination Committee.

Another group, the Nil’in Youth Center, also said said Israeli forces used tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition.

The center also said Israeli soldiers were injured when youths threw stones and Molotov cocktails toward five military jeeps that crossed over the barrier and entered the village.

Approached by Ma’an, an Israeli military spokeswoman denied that soldiers used live fire.

She confirmed that two soldiers were lightly injured, and that protesters used at least one Molotov. Protesters threw rocks and burned tires, as well, the official said.

According to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, since June 2008, five Palestinian demonstrators have been killed by soldiers’ fire during protests in Ni’ilin, including two minors – 10 year-old Ahmed Mousa and 17 year-old Yussef Amirah.