Posts Tagged ‘nonviolence’


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…………


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.


Weekly Post: 21-2-10

February 21, 2010

This week I began working on an awareness campaign for Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) about women’s legal rights with respect to sexuality and domestic violence. Unfortunately there are more problems related to those topics here in the West Bank than I expected. Some say that the occupation is one of the reasons that domestic violence has been rising here—because when a man can’t protect his family or even make a living because of the effects of the Israeli occupation, he is more likely to be angry and short-tempered.

Anyways, it’s a weak excuse for hitting a woman but it’s something we’re going to be working on raising awareness about. So far, honor killings and domestic violence have stayed very private, family matters. But nothing will change if there is not widespread awareness and education about this. We will also be campaigning on a national level with Palestinian women to get their rights legalized.

On Wednesday I went to visit a friend in Jenin—a smaller conservative city in the northern West Bank. Its about 2 hours in the service from Ramallah—this time it was longer because we had to take some back roads; I don’t know if that was because of Israelis or just normal road detours. We crossed 3 checkpoints, and we didn’t get stopped at any of them.

I arrived in Jenin around 6 pm in the center of the city, and called my friend Frida—a Swedish girl who’s working in the Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp. She told me to meet them at the Flavors Café; the only “mixed” (boys and girls) café in Jenin. I met Frida and Lazar and some of the other Freedom Theater volunteers and we had a nice dinner and some coffees afterwards.

After that we walked back through the city center to the refugee camp. The Jenin Refugee Camp is one of the most political—and took the hardest hits from the Israeli army during the Second Intifada. It’s extremely conservative as well—it wouldn’t be appropriate to walk down the street with a guy unless he’s my husband or brother/father and I would be stared at if I walked alone.

It’s obviously not my favorite type of place but Frida and the other volunteers have a little “western oasis” in the middle of it at the theater. They have an apartment building next to the theater that’s just for staff and volunteers; it has a nice big roof on the top for smoking arghile or getting some air on a hot day.

We watched some of the Palestinian actors and actresses from the refugee camp as they did a run-through of a play they are working on. The theater is very impressive and so are the students there—they have a lot of talent.

There are still some problems between the more conservative people in the camp and the theater. It has been burned down a few times since Juliano (half Israeli-half Palestinian) started running the theater. Many Palestinians living in Jenin and other conservative villages in the West Bank are uncomfortable with boys and girls working together in the theater—especially with Western teachers and volunteers. The Palestinian girls who are learning and acting at the theater have to be very determined and very brave to stand up to their family’s and the ever-watchful eyes of the neighborhood.

We were supposed to be staying at my friend Frida’s house instead of the volunteer apartment, but at 11pm we couldn’t find a taxi. Frida’s house is up on a hill overlooking the camp—it’s owned by Zachariah Zubeidi’s brother. Zubeidi was a very active member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the second Intifada, but since then he has given up armed resistance and signed the “Amnesty Agreements” with Israel—which says he will give up violence and Israel won’t assassinate him. Of course, in many cases, Israel ends up assassinating the people anyways—but Zubeidi has been keeping a pretty low profile these days and is even working with the theater now. Anyways, I didn’t get to meet him this time, but hopefully next time I will.

I got back to Ramallah in time for the 5th anniversary protest in Bil’in. It has been 5 years since they started protesting the construction of the wall on their land and the theft of their land for illegal Israeli settlements.

There were about 1000 people there on Friday morning from all over the world. The villagers and other Palestinians from Ramallah and nearby villages, Israeli peace activists (including Clowns against the Occupation hahahah), Salaam Fayyad—the PM of Palestine, Mustafa Barghouthi—my boss and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the mayor of Geneva, Switzerland, and international activists from all over Europe and the US.

There were speeches at the beginning from the Bil’in Popular Struggle Committee and all of the high profile guests for about an hour. A Palestinian marching band as well as an Israeli marching band lead the protestors to the fence. The line of protestors stretched all the way from the village to the wall—there were so many people there.

When we first got to the fence, we were surprised to see that there were no Israeli soldiers standing on the other side waiting for us. We thought maybe because we were so late that they gave up and went home. So the villagers went straight to the fence and started destroying it. There are two rows of fences, one on the Bil’in side with a gate and a bigger one on the settlement side.

The boys from the village (the ones who hadn’t been arrested by the IDF for protesting yet) opened the gate in the first fence then went straight to the second one and pulled it down by pushing, pulling and jumping on it. Around that time, the soldiers realized the guys were on the settlement side of the fence and they came with the Darban (sewage-chemical water) truck.

The photographers were all trapped on the settlement side and had to run through a shower of shit water to get to safety from the IDF. Most of the boys that destroyed the fence also got showered in the foulest smelling water only the Israeli army could invent. It’s a mix between skunk smell, sewage water smell, and offensive chemical smells. If you smell it at close range, you will feel the urge to puke. If you are covered in it, you will retch and puke and tear off your clothes (as we saw this past Friday at Bil’in).

My friend Lazar got completely soaked in it because he was one of the photographers on the other side of the fence. He couldn’t even function for about a half an hour because it smelled so bad. And by the way, this smell will not come off of plastic or rubber (Lazar had to throw away his helmet and gas mask because the smell wouldn’t come off, and smelled up our entire apartment). Lazar took about 3 1-hour long showers and scrubbed off many layers of skin before we could stand to have him within 50 feet of us!

Only in Palestine…

After they shot the shit-water on everyone in the front, they shot the teargas cannon (Al Thuletheen- “The thirty”) and all of a sudden the sky was full of teargas canisters falling everywhere around us. I did my usual routine of just sitting down and covering my face near a wall—if you run, you can’t see, you inhale more teargas, and you run the risk of tripping or falling or running other people over, and getting hit by the falling canisters.

While I was sitting there in huge cloud of teargas watching people’s feet running past me a guy stumbled down next to me by the wall, panicked and gasping for air with nothing covering his mouth or nose.

I patted him on the shoulder and said “everything’s gonna be ok! Stop breathing and put something over your face!” He ignored my advice to take off his knit hat and put it over his mouth and nose, but seemed to be a little more comfortable knowing he wasn’t going to die. After a few minutes the gas cloud dissipated and I found out this kid was from Galilee (northern Israel) and had never been to a protest in the West Bank before.

He followed me to a safer spot for a post-teargas cannon break—there are two ‘fronts’ at Bil’in where you get shot at by the Israelis. One was at the fence that got torn down, at the end of a road leading from the village. On one side of the road is a small wall (my safety wall…haha) and the other side is fields with olive trees.

The other ‘front’ is when the wall on the right side of the road stops, and there are just fields there. About 100 meters from the road on the right is the Israeli wall where soldiers shoot from as well. So we were sitting on the right side of the road when the small wall stops. On our right is the road where there are protesters getting shot at or throwing stones, and on the left is the other Israeli wall with protesters getting shot at or throwing stones again.

So we were sitting there with our backs against the small wall, watching as teargas canisters were shot like missiles at protestors—straight at them at head level, instead of up in the air at a 45 degree angle like the international standards require. Hmm…

Luckily no one was seriously injured that Friday.

As I was getting a little too comfortable in my safe spot, I noticed everyone running down the hill towards the village. That can mean 3 things: the darban truck, the teargas cannon, or soldiers running at us through the gates onto the Palestinian side.

All of a sudden my roommate Lazar ran past yelling “Run! The soldiers are coming!” So my friend Ahmed that I was sitting with and I were off like a shot down through the fields, jumping over the stone terraces and dodging olive trees and the teargas canisters fired at us from the back by the soldiers.

Soon enough we were running through a cloud of teargas—which is NOT fun at all. My lungs were burning and I couldn’t even open my eyes anymore. But luckily Ahmed and I had outran the soldiers and avoided getting arrested! As I stopped in the fields and collapsed basically due to lack of oxygen and too much teargas I noticed another person laying on the ground about 20 feet away. He was trying to ask for the ambulance but couldn’t yell. I went over to him, he was one of the boys from the village who was throwing stones at the second ‘front’…and had been teargassed pretty badly.

A second later the paramedics were there giving him oxygen and I decided to head back to the road. There were literally only 6 people left at the protest, less than an hour after it started, out of 1000! And most of the people who left were still waiting half way back to the village just watching. It was so lame; they should either come back or just leave all together. And as we walked back to the village, the last of the protestors, there were the “important” guests standing there getting interviewed by all the big media saying “Oh yeah, I got teargassed!” and this and that. Stupid.

But we went back to my friend Jaber’s house afterwards and sat on his roof in the sun and unwound a little bit after the demo. His mom made us some amazing food as usual and Lazar took the first 10 of many showers, and threw away his shirt. By the time we got into the service to go to Ramallah, the smell was hardly noticeable—but maybe that’s just because we were all too used to smelling it!

Anyways, that’s it for this week….


Weekly Update:

February 8, 2010


 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


 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.