Out of the 23 activists, many were physically assaulted while handcuffed behind their backs, as Mohammed Khatib, one of the leaders of the Bil’in popular committee, describes in his own testimony. Mustafa Tamimi’s sister, Ola, who was prevented from being with her brother as he took his last breaths, was pepper sprayed in the eyes, from a few centimeters away. And another handcuffed woman was slapped with the back of the hand of a passing male settler, when she expressed objection to him assaulting Khatib and taking pictures. These are just a few of the testimonies that were published and taped, we still don’t have a complete story of this particular demonstration, and many other stories will be lost in the clouds of gas.
I’ll say it again, I truly appreciate that you took your contemplations public. I can tell by what you write that you’ve been thrown into a world that its intensity is unknown to you. I write to you consistently because your heart is on your sleeve, and even though you seem to have made up your mind, I feel the doubt in every public utterance you make.
I’ll introduce myself; My name is Tali Shapiro. I’m an Israeli citizen and I just came back from the village of Nabi Salleh in the West Bank and read your latest blog post. I’m an activist that joins the weekly demonstrations in the village. There are weekly demonstrations in many villages. Though it’s a part of a movement for Palestinian human rights, each village wakes to dissent for individual reasons. Nabi Sallah has had its land annexed by the near by Halamish settlement and its water spring closed off from them by military force. Ever since then, they’ve been demonstrating.
Demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories come with a heavy price. Whether its the wounded and dead, or the constant harassment. Nabi Saleh has been subject to military closure, houses sprayed with putrid water (another method of “crowd dispersal”), night raids, arrests of activists (regardless of age), and torture which includes threats, beatings and contorted body positioning.
I write to you as I come back from one of these night raids. I live in Tel Aviv by choice. I choose to come to a war zone at night, to witness exactly what is being done in the name of my security:
Whatever the Western media calls them, the illegal Jewish settlements on the West Bank are very far from being outposts. They are connected to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv by fast, Jews-only motorways. Their villas have swimming pools and lawns (a settler is allocated eight times more water than a Palestinian). Even the most recent and farflung of settlements are tooled-up enough to intimidate the Arabs on whose land they encroach.
It’s the Palestinian villages which feel like outposts, although some have been settled for thousands of years. Even when they’re close to major cities they are vulnerable, intermittently cut-off, and surrounded by wolves (or boars).
An example is Iraq Burin, a mountain-top village just a kilometre from Nablus but one trapped behind a checkpoint. Not only are the villagers unable to access city shops and services, they face violent harrassment from soldiers and armed men from the nearby Bracha settlement.
There’s an unarmed ‘popular’ struggle against land confiscation being waged here. It involves weekly demonstrations which are met by tear gas and sometimes bullets (in March two teenagers were killed). Similar protests are held in villages all over the West Bank, most famously in Bil’in, Nil’in and Budrus.