November 9, 2013 by cosmoakacitizensmith
This image has been haunting me for the last 24 hours. I’ll explain why.
Another Friday, another demo. The village of Nabi Salih, about half an hour from Ramallah, has a depressingly familiar story to tell. There is an illegal Israeli settlement nearby, and it has annexed the well that the residents need for their water supply. For the past four years the villagers have been demonstrating peacefully, only to be met by the army. This Friday was no exception.
The start of the demo was quite a contrast to the all-male turnout at Ni’lin I witnessed last week. This was, by contrast, a family affair and the whole community turned out – including the kids.
A game of footie was played by some boys just before the demo started.
After about half an hour of amassing, we set off down the hill to where the well was located. The villagers were chanting with a loud hailer and carried a large photo of the dead Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The Israeli army were waiting for us, fired teargas at us and we all ran onto some land next to the road.
Some of the youth responded by chucking stones and some of the teargas canisters back at the army. David and Goliath sprung to mind.
The standoff finished and to add to the surrealism, we all went off to a nearby service station to get some drinks. A thought kept surfacing in my head. Why were there children on this demo? There was also a young Palestinian lad running around who had Down syndrome. Surely this was putting vulnerable people in unnecessary danger? I have learned since I have been here not to judge, as there are always deeper things going on below the surface that Westerners in a privileged position like myself can’t always see. Sure enough, when we went back to the family’s house, I found the answer.
Tamimi, who lives in the house, showed us some footage of the last four years of the protests here. It showed how the Israeli army forced their way into the village in a cloud of teargas and killed people. We were shown footage of them spraying houses with the so-called “skunk truck”, a vehicle that looks like an armoured dustcart and sprays people with foul-smelling chemicals at high velocity. No one knows what chemicals it contains, but they leave abrasions on the skin.
For me, the worst part of the footage was from one of the early demos when the Israeli army surrounded a house where children and elderly people were hiding in a room for their own protection. The army then broke into the room through the roof of the house and set off teargas in it. The children and elderly people had to be evacuated through a small window out the back very slowly as the army had sealed off the entrance downstairs.
“So now you see,” Tamimi said, “it is safer for us to bring our children on the demos than to leave them at home.”
If you don’t believe me, you can watch it for yourself here. Please be warned, this footage is very distressing. But I challenge anyone who wants to know the reality of occupation to watch it. And if anyone cares to sit down and justify the occupation to me, right now I’d quite happily punch them in the fucking face.