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The Only Democracy? » On The Ground Reports » For Israeli army, Palestinians having guests is a crime. Pt 1

For Israeli army, Palestinians having guests is a crime. Pt 1

Here is the  video of the Nabi Saleh protest from Friday.

We received this account from the same protest our anonymous  source A., an international activist living in Palestine.  She explains:

This account is edited from a chat conversation describing events that took place on July 21st during and after the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh against the illegal settlement on the village’s land and against Israel’s Apartheid policies and unlawful occupation and colonization of Palestine as a whole. It might sound like I was upset at the violence directed at me or you could have the impression that I was very brave, but neither is the case. I have been at many demonstrations that certain kinds of attacks (stun grenades for instance) do not unsettle me that much (untill I get hit by one one day, I imagine). What I did and do find very upsetting is the insane level of abuse of rights that the army exhibited this Friday, even for Nabi Saleh’s standards in detaining four young men, one a 14 year old and three of them from the family I was hanging out with. (Unfortunately a shocking amount of army violence towards civilians including small children has become the rule in that village).

Also I feature so much in this account because in the chaos and while hiding I missed most of what others did, much of which was REALLY impressive (such as the amazing young paramedics, the children, youths, and the mothers and fathers from Nabi Saleh, as well as the Palestinian youths from elsewhere who have been organize a strong and motivating solidarity campaign). I changed names of people.

I arrived early because the army closes off the roads to Nabi Saleh on Fridays, so I hung out at the house of the uncle of a friend.

I really like her family and was glad to see them again. The family and I joked around for a while, drank coffee, ate young grapes off the vine. I hadn’t seen them for bit, so the girls (late teens, very early 20s) and I were mostly being really silly (tried out different ways to wear a kuffiyeh and headscarfs, pretended to be old men or resistance fighters between clouds of tear-gas that kept drifting onto the porch and into the house. The army had already been shooting, but it was still “only occasional”.

Nour and Leila used to go to demos and were very much up front, but haven’t been going for a while. They decided to go with me that day, though, just to be together.

The actual demo only lasted a short while. Please note that ALL of this is happening INSIDE the village, in the middle of Palestinian territory. The Israeli Army shot like crazy and people dispersed. I got separated from the girls.

Earlier, when two Israeli activists and I were standing in a small road, alone, and talking, they shot a cluster of rubber-coated steel bullets directly at us, out of nowhere. An indication of what was to come, I guess.

There were many many people, including internationals and Israeli activists as well as the aforementioned Palestinian youths from Ramallah and elsewhere in addition to the amazing people of Nabi Saleh.

I was sitting with two Israeli actists and a young men from the village in the yard of a house where we’d hidden for a while from the first massive round of tear gas. The air seemed ok again and things seemed to have calmed, so we sat on the stairs and were chatting, taking an early break, when a commander appeared from around a wall and immediately threw a stun grenade at us while screaming “What are you doing here?”

I ran after the two Israeli activists and we ended up hiding in another house, talking to others in the village by phone, trying to find out what was going on. It got to a point where almost everyone/most were forced to hide inside as the army attacked anyone they saw. It look liked a ghost town outside.

After a bit, I followed an activist through backroads to the main square. Things seemed to have calmed down again. By the time I arrived at the square, soldiers had taken over the roof of a house and a number of activists (mostly internationals) were taking cover/resting in the front room of a shop directly in the line of fire, but shielded by grates.

The army remained stationed on the roof, around the square and who knows where else, and armored jeeps kept driving past, but seemed to have stopped shooting. The corner of the square where the shop was located very slowly came back to life with the guns pointed at people, things still tense, but no more tear gas in the air.

Four or five jeeps positioned on the road next to the shop and soldiers lined up in front but we couldn’t see what that meant. Nour got up and went around the corner (where the jeeps were stationed), said “shit, army at our house” and ran to look.

I followed Nour, who slipped through between the soldiers trying to stop her and down to the house where even more soldiers were massing. A soldier stopped me. I said “my things are there”, “it’s my friends house“, etc., emphasizing the banality of the act they were trying to prevent – me going to my friend’s house. He turned his back to me, with another soldier shielding him as if there were sharing some classified secre, and suddenly threw a stun grenade at me, a young woman standing in an almost empty square, surrounded by soldiers. It was rather ridiculous and yet quite typical and therefore predictable, I could react in time and the thing went off somewhere in front of me. We were laughing at the soldiers and joking about this “anti-terror” maneuver when Nour came running back, and threw herself into my arms and crying “They arrested Amir!” [I heard later that a bunch of international and Israeli activists had been sitting in the house when it was suddenly raided by soldiers who arrested Amir and a friend of his Mustapha (both men in their early 20s) from Leila’s family’s house! People sitting around, probably drinking tea, and out of nowhere, insane soldiers enter and arrest the hosts without any warrant or reason, just because they can.]

Nour went crazy, kept trying to stop to the soldiers who were forcing the two across the square to the house they had occupied, she kept standing in their way, crying, cursing and screaming „why are you taking him?“Amir was smiled at us and made the peace/victory sign, someone behind me shouted to Mustapha some Palestinian male equivalent to „I love you“.As soon as the soldiers shoved Amir and Mustapha into the house, before they even closed the door, they started beating them.

A few of us had followed them to the stairs, including some activists filming, and were screaming at the soldiers not to beat the two when soldiers both inside the building and threw more stun grenades at us. And they kept throwing them even as people moved away. They also looked about to shoot more tear gas canisters at the shop.

Nour kept crying and screaming angrily (when not dodging grenades). We sat down on the steps of another building in the square in sight of the house, and I kept hugging her and kissing her head, feeling pretty useless and rather upset myself at this point.

An army transport vehicle arrived and Nour knew it was to take Amir and Mustapha away, so she ran back across the square to the building, still crying, frantically trying to come up with SOMETHING to prevent them from driving off with her brother. A few others also gathered in front of the door and continued videotaping, and I continued to try to hold Nour and feel useless. I don’t remember what exactly happened, I think some commander gestured to some of us, indicating they were going to arrest, anyway, for some reason, Nour ran back to her uncle’s house and I followed. There, her mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousins and friends were walking frantically around on the little porch. Both Nidal and Amir had been arrested from under their noses from inside these homes in the past few hours.

Once again, a bunch of soldiers appeared and (suprisingly to me) singled me out and made as if they were about to arrest me. While other soldiers surrounded me, exhibiting some of their repertoire of threatening macho gestures, the commander threatened to arrest me, unless I gave him my ID or walked with him to the military tower. He claimed the whole village was a closed military zone (without showing an order) and questioned me. I eventually managed to get out, pretended I was leaving the village (aka “closed military zone“) and hid (again!) in someone’s house. And once again, I learned through phone-calls they had confiscated IDs of any non-Palestinian they saw and taken them to the military base, from where people had to retrieve their ID’s and then leave the area (was pretty obvious that the policy was to get all human rights observers out). Everyone they hadn’t gotten seemed to be hiding.

It felt strange, let me tell you, since we ostensibly come in solidarity and as human rights observers, and here it was Palestinians protecting us from arrest, looking out whether soldiers were coming, hiding us, signaling when we could come out etc. – which is how it SHOULD be seeing as we are the guests in THEIR land, but because the internationally-backed occupation grants foreigners more rights in Palestine than Palestinians, and Palestinians are the Israeli soldiers’ chosen target, it is often international/Israeli activists that try to prevent (at least document) the arrest/abuse of Palestinians. Which, this Friday, we really failed to do.

Tomorrow: A. takes refuge again in a Palestinian home.

Written by

JESSE BACON (Philadelphia) is a freelance activist and father. He has a Masters in teaching from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He is an observant progressive Jew, and is trying to be a good ally for Palestinians and all dispossessed peoples, while staying true to the best traditions in Judaism. He visited Israel and Palestine in 1996, 2001, and 2002. He served for three years on the local steering committee of Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago, and one year on the board of Pursue the Peace in Seattle. Read his posts here.

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