The Only Democracy in the Middle East: 21-23.5.10

The demonstration in Bil’in was conducted in solidarity with the Israeli settlement boycott movement. Two children, including a mentally disabled boy, were injured and three Israelis, including myself, were arrested after the soldiers, yet again, invaded the village in order to make arrests.  Cuffed and blindfolded, we were taken to the Benjamin police station at the Beit El/Adam settlement, which can be easily found on the map.

The following night, the army practiced its own special brand of communication, and  invaded the village in order to hand out papers to Khassan Abu Rahmah (27) and Yasser Yaseen (19) (it’s already the second time for Yasser), which order them to go to the shabak’s office for further questioning.

In Nil’in, it seems like nothing changes, but the seasons.

A considerably big demonstration in al-Ma’asara; 120 people including Palestinians, internationals and Israelis participated. The demonstrators sang songs, banners and cameras were carried by many of the participants who nearly arrived at the main road where they sat down in front of the Israeli soldiers. The army responded to the peaceful demonstration with force; firing sound bombs, tear gas, and rubber bullets.  The action continued until the crowd had completed dispersed.

Two young Palestinian men were arrested violently while they were seated on the ground with their hands up in front of the soldiers. Another person was hospitalized with a serous head injury caused by a tear gas canister. The Israeli soldiers claimed the men were being violent. The demonstration of this Friday was also significant because it is the first time that people support the boycott of the products of the settlers and all the political parties like Hamas, Fatah or Peoples Party agree in the non violent resistance.

In atypical fashion, this week, the army didn’t attack the march in Nebi Sallah, on sight. The soldiers did, however,  take control of the main village’s junction, as they usually do, shutting traffic and threatening to use violence if approached. Chanting and dancing all the way, protesters approached slowly towards the nervous army position, breaking any distance the soldiers wished to maintain. A few young people peacefully observing the scene from above was apparently too much for the army to bear, and their pursue after the youngsters signaled the end of the peaceful demonstration. Soon enough tear gas and stun grenades were thrown at the retreating protesters, while stones were thrown back at the army position. The following was reported from the scene:

During the long hours of the demo, army soldiers often fired tear gas projectiles aiming directly at body height, instead of firing them arched as their own regulations require. One Palestinian protester was injured by a tear gas projectile shot directly below his eye, and was evacuated to a nearby hospital. About a dozen others suffered from less serious injuries caused by the army aggression.

Two internationals who were taking pictures were arrested. They were held for 6 hours in a military facility, handcuffed, with their eyes covered. One Palestinian youth who was during the whole demo inside his home was randomly chosen by the army to be arrested for “throwing stones”. After much negotiations… the youth was released…

While the park near the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was filling up with hundreds of protesters, a few dozen filled a major junction in Tel Aviv, protesting their violent arrest and barring from the neighborhood last week (translation beneath):

Stavit Sini (black haired woman):

We were released under a main limitation which is barring from the neighborhood. A barring of one week and 2 days.

Sahar Vardi (blonde woman):

Basically, when we were slapped with this barring order, someone said that it isn’t a “barring order”- it’s a “broadening order”. It’s the broadening of the struggle beyond just Sheikh Jarrah. We can’t be there? No problem! We’ll be here. We’ll be in a demonstration in Heifa.

Savit Sini:

Part of the idea of this demonstration is to awaken people into action here in Tel Aviv, in the coffee houses. Not that there’s anything wrong with sitting in a coffee house, but it’s important to stress that in today’s Israeli society we’re seeing anti democratic, anti liberal winds, that are gnawing at our society. And for this, it’s just impossible to be silent. And I personally call, all those sitting in the coffee houses, to come out and protest and fight, as hard as possible, because our society just can’t exist as it is.

Sahar Vardi:

The issue of Jerusalem and the settlements built there, it’s endangering any political process.That is to say, it’s something that affects Tel Aviv as much as it affects any other city, and that’s why we’re bringing it to… Tel Aviv, as well, and hope that the people here, in the coffee houses, will also hear what it’s all about, will start getting interested, understanding what’s Sheikh Jarrah. That it isn’t so far away.

Boys on the bus (about 17, right before draft), obviously very aware of the issue, burst into a spontaneous show of (…prepare for understatement of the year…) patriotism, singing Naomi Shemer’s Jerusalem of Gold.

Sahar Vardi:

This barring, like any attempt by the police to repress the struggle, actually, in someway, helps us. All the arrests that happened up until now got more people to come there. These barring orders cause more demonstrations across the state. In the end, any attempt to repress this struggle only makes it grow.

Man with megaphon:

Next week, as usual, at 16:00 o’clock, whomever isn’t barred- we’ll see you in Jerusalem.

The following report came in from the Beit Jalla Sunday sit-in:

Sunday action in Beit Jala included a direct action, peaceful demo and clashes with the Israeli army. As one group participated in a peaceful demo against the construction of the wall, another group actually went towards the wall’s construction works. The construction was delayed for about 40 minutes, for which 6 Israeli activists paid in some bruises and arrest time. All the others were dispersed by tear gas and stun grenades. Clashes between youth and the Israeli army also erupted after the peaceful demo. The arrestees were released around 17:00, with restraint conditions not to attend the wall’s construction sites in the area for 14 days.

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