Video of the Jully 22nd protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
Part 1 of an account of that day’s protest from our source A. is here.
Her story continues…
After a while, my paramedic friend and a young man from the village led me once again through back-roads and fields back to Leila’s, where people were happy I hadn’t been arrested (and Nour was back to laughing). It sounded like soldiers might reappear, though, so the family and friends advised us internationals to hide in the bedroom in the back. Because I just about escaped arrest at this same house and had supposedly left the village, I took off my shoes and got in the bed (where Hala was trying to sleep to stop crying), and two other girls sat on the floor, listening to the sounds of soldiers nearby. Usaid came into the room and said “stay calm, they are coming into the house”.
While the women stood up to the soldiers and tried to prevent them from coming in, Usaid sat next to me on the bed, typing on a laptop. We heared the commander asking if there was anyone in the house, and the women yelling there wasn’t and that they should leave (very strong, these women). Suddenly the room filled with soldiers, the women managing to stand between them and us as shields and continuing to argue with them. We had not turned on the light, and the army took this occasion to make use of the strong lights on their rifles, pointing them at our faces. The commander screamed at the women “You lied to me! You lied to me“ (like they had cheated on him) and threatened the two girls with arrest unless they leave (so they left). I was pretending to be sick, so I barely reacted to the scene around me – which REALLY feelt shitty.
When the two girls leave, more lights and rifles are pointed at me (I don’t turn my head to look), I am ordered to leave, I tell them I can’t, the women say I am sick, and suddenly the soldiers turn on Usaid!
They corner him against the cupboard next to me, the women still try to shield him, the commander asks for Usaid’s ID, and suddenly and for no reason at all, they arrest Usaid (who is 19 years old, I think). They drag him away, the women are screaming hysterically and trying to get him out of their grips, while still protecting me, telling the soldier to let me sleep.
I am left lying in bed, with an even more shitty feeling, let me tell you. When I dare to go out, the family is trying to calm down (again!) and we speculate if they are going to release Usaid soon or keep him for months, and what could have been done differently to prevent the arrest. The father is angry at Usaid for not having stayed on the porch, as he had told him. He thinks he might not have gotten arrested had he not been in the back room with us. In Usaid’s case, it is very clear that his arrest was random, and I am thinking he was arrested because of us, because he was hiding us. To keep myself busy, I guess, I write angry text messages to friends while I’m sitting with his now very distressed parents – who’ve seen two of their sons and a nephew arrested from their homes in the last few hours and are still waiting for their other son to get out of prison and for his jaw to heal – and I’m feeling the familiar mix of disbelief, powerlessness, guilt, worry, sadness, and whoknowswhatelse. We don’t speak.
I heard later that one of the best-equipped armies of the world had also stormed another house in what sounds like a military operation, pointing rifles and a hand-gun at the heads of internationals and Israelis who were sitting around, to violently arrest Sami, another young man (in this case, it sounds like the arrest was not random).
In the course of the evening and night, all but Nidal got released (Nidal was released Sunday evening), none of them charged with anything. Amir and Mustapha had been beaten very badly, ordered to kneel in the sun for hours, and refused water to drink. Sami got subpoenad and has to present himself on Monday (at the military base, if I remember correctly – we can’t really make out what that is supposed to mean).
When she wasn’t running after soldiers who were arresting her family members, Hala, Nidal’s wife, tried to sleep in order to stop crying. While it was getting dark, the army was still shooting tear gas, including into homes with little children. During the entire day, people kept running in and out of houses to take cover from tear gas (while cooking, while chatting, while resting, while…) Only the night before, soldiers had invaded the village and shot life ammunition at the protest tent.
By night-time, we were all invited to dinner in one or more of the various homes out of which the sons had been arrested (I ended up eating three dinners), the families, Nour, Hala, Leila, and later even Usaid, Mustapha, Sami, Amir, Ibrahim and Qasim hosting us, joking, urging us to eat more, making us feel comfortable, again.
There seems to be no end to the Israeli army’s sick creativity, and Nabi Saleh in particular seems a favorite target. I am not sure how many are currently in jail, but over 10% of the villagers have been detained over the past year and a half for exercising their right to protest against the ongoing illegal annexation of their lands. Like so many communities in Palestine, the inhabitants of Nabi Saleh have seen family members arrested and looked away for weeks, months or years in unproportionately threatening and violent night raids on their homes; during demonstrations, their sons (and sometimes daughters) were detained, and occasionally released the same day without charges. Yet, raiding and storming houses in the middle of the day, in the presence of tens of international and Israeli activists, to arrest young men at gun-point without arrest warrants and only to release them hours later without charges – this seems unusual even for the Israeli army’s regular aggression towards this village. I imagine that the next weeks will show what this means.
In the meantime, I keep thinking of something I said jokingly:„Maybe next Friday, you should send your sons away from the village“. I keep thinking:„Are the inhabitants of the village not allowed to have visitors any more?“, „Is there ANYthing the sons daughters of Nabi Saleh can do to stay safe from arrests?“ and „Is there NOTHING their friends and family can do to protect them?“ Rethorical questions, of course, but in my mind, I keep asking them, keep shaking my head in disbelief.
On the long run, of course, what we can do to protect the people of Nabi Saleh and of Palestine as a whole is to step up our efforts to expose Israel’s past and ongoing crimes and to pressure organisations and political institutions/governments to sanction Israel until it respects international law and the human rights of all Palestinians.