Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Back at the scene(s) of the crime(s)

Oy, vey. Here we go again.

I'm back in the West Bank, this time based out of Beit Omar with the Palestine Solidarity Project (PSP). The PSP is an entirely non-violent anti-occupation group founded by Mousa, an experienced Palestinian organizer, and Bekah, a Jewish organizer who is a friend of many years from NYC and Jews Against the Occupation (JATO). These organizers work in close collaboration with a steering committee from the local community, in order to make sure that the organization's activities reflect the priorities of those most directly affected by Israeli actions, and whose families are at the greatest risk of reprisals, etc. Everything is done with limited resources and against impossible odds, as is the case of pretty much all work in support of Palestinian rights. As if that weren't enough, Mousa was arrested several weeks ago on secret security charges (read, in this case: 'pure fiction that will never be challenged, because there's no way to find out what it is'). He remains in administrative detention, which amounts to open-ended imprisonment intended to disrupt his non-violent organizing. A pretty effective disruption, obviously! Unlike the overwhelming majority of Palestinians held in administrative detention, Mousa has managed to get a High Court hearing this coming Thursday on a point of procedure. Nobody expects that the High Court will actually stop his detention, which would be virtually (and perhaps literally) unheard of, but there is some hope that they will set explicit conditions under which the detention can be extended beyond an initial six-month period. Since there was no real basis for holding Mousa in the first place, this would amount to a six-month prison sentence for absolutely nothing; a grim example of what passes for 'victory' if you're a Palestinian caught up in the Israeli 'legal' system.

Yesterday, our team of activists (sans Mousa) went to Ni'lin, a Palestinian village that has been holding a series of non-violent demonstrations in resistance to the 'security' barrier being built on village property, annexing yet more Palestinian land to illegal Israeli settlements built nearby. The demonstrations have been supported by international and Israeli activists (the latter mostly members of the amazing Anarchists Against the Wall), whose presence is believed and intended to limit the degree of violence inflicted by Israeli soldiers on the Palestinians. Nonetheless, soldiers have beaten, shot, and arrested a number of Palestinian and international (and possibly Israeli) activists over the past few weeks. Most recently, on 7/29, Israeli soldiers murdered Ahmed Mousa, a 10-year-old boy who was pulling at razor wire strung across his village's land; Ahmed was shot through the head at close range with live ammunition, and died instantly. On 8/1, following Ahmed's funeral, villagers heaped stone and scrap across the main entrance to the village in order to deny entrance to the Israeli army, which had no business entering the village in the first place, particularly at such a time. When the army did decide to force a path into the village, they were met with a shower of thrown stones, to which they responded with a hail of rubber-coated steel bullets (fired at short range, where they are known to be frequently lethal). Two rubber-coated steel bullets penetrated the skull of one 18-year-old youth, Yousef Amira, who was completely non-responsive on arrival at a hospital in Ramallah. Yousef's body died yesterday and he was buried in Ni'lin following a large funeral procession.

As the tail end of the funeral procession (which transported Yousef's body from Ramallah) entered Ni'lin, three or four Palestinians (who I happened to be escorting) attempted to drape a large Palestinian flag between them, across the village entrance, as they walked towards the mosque where the funeral would be held. This harmless act was met by a barrage of sound grenades from the 20+ Israeli soldiers manning a checkpoint at the village entrance. {If anyone is wondering how many grenades constitute a 'barrage', I'm afraid I can't tell you; counting sound grenades while they explode around me is beyond my present capacity. It was a lot.} This response was so bizarrely out of proportion to anything I saw happening that I spent several minutes whirling around and trying to figure out what violent conflict was taking place without my noticing. Finally, I realized (and others later confirmed) that there really was nothing else going on; the entire assault was about three unarmed, non-confrontational guys walking with a flag to a funeral. I located a senior officer and asked him what the hell he was doing; I think that the grenades subsided afterward, but I'm not positive.

So, to sum up: Israeli soldiers murdered a young boy, killed a young man at the boy's funeral, and poured sound grenades on people going to the young man's funeral.

Welcome (back) to the occupation!


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