Saturday, August 09, 2008

More of the Same

Let's see...what to tell? Mousa's High Court case went about as expected, maybe even a bit worse. Shin Bet showed the Court their secret evidence, based on "a secret source"; the Court did nothing to evaluate the evidence, but merely said that they had to assume that "Shin Bet was acting honestly and in good faith," and left Mousa indefinitely imprisoned without charge. A supreme court that safeguards against security service abuses by assuming that the service always acts "honestly and in good faith"; you can't ask for better oversight than that! Shin Bet actually stated before the Court that they intend to extend Mousa's detainment by another six months when the first six are up. I assume they were trying to avoid additional hassle by showing Mousa's attorney that she needn't bother refiling later, but it could have been simple sadism...hard to tell. Bekah's trying to put a good face on things, but this is incredibly difficult for her. Mousa is talking about going on a hunger strike in protest, which I gather he's done at least once before. Everyone hopes he won't do it, since the Israelis couldn't care less and will just ignore him, cancel any family visitations, and force feed him if he looks like dying.

The fundamental question of life in Palestine: what do you do when doing nothing is intolerable, but doing anything is impossible?

I've now participated in two more events in Ni'lin: a demonstration against Barrier construction and land annexations on Thursday, and a general protest against the Occupation on Friday. In each case, Palestinians participating in non-violent activities on their own lands (together with internationals and Israelis) were assaulted by Israeli troops using a variety of means: bare hands, sound grenades, tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets (black and cylindrical), plastic-coated steel "grapeshot" (light-colored and spherical), and truly vile stink sprays (these are new, apparently, and only work at very close range).

Bruised activists of various origins are a dime a dozen at the demonstrations, as are low levels of tear gas inhalation. One Palestinian youth went into convulsions (which I saw), apparently after being shot in the head at close range with a rubber-coated steel bullet (which I didn't). Thankfully, we haven't had any live fire injuries in the past week; presumably the soldiers have been told to tone it down after murdering a young boy a bit earlier. It probably goes without saying, but no protestor has used any form of violence against the soldiers, no matter what the provocation. We will try to "de-arrest" people who are being dragged away by holding on to each other and thinking heavy thoughts, but other than that, we basically stand (or lie) there and take it. Palestinians, or people who look like they might be Palestinians, "naturally" tend to get the worst abuse.

Shortly after each demonstration, Palestinian youths and young men not affiliated with the demonstrators came out to sling stones at the soldiers from 50 to 100 yards, or so. Well, they hurl stones somewhere near the soldiers, anyway; the slings were wildly inaccurate at these distances. The soldiers responded with bunches of tear gas grenades and varying numbers of rubber-coated steel bullets, which are designed for use at these ranges, and don't kill anybody. Serious injuries were (and generally are) rare, so long as soldiers don't break out the live ammunition, although one Palestinian youth did have his hand sliced open by a flying tear gas cannister.

The good news is that the demonstrations get some genuine media attention. We had CNN out the other day, a couple of major French and German TV channels, and an assortment of minor players I can't identify. Presumably, somebody somewhere is seeing this footage and empathizing (or at least sympathizing) with the Palestinians, as well they should. The bad news, of course, is that it isn't anywhere close to enough, nothing has really changed, and nothing is likely to. The bulldozers churn forward, the seizures continue, the olive trees go down, the Barrier goes up, the water goes to the settlements, the soldiers abuse the Palestinians, etc.

So, what do you do when doing nothing is intolerable, but doing anything is impossible?

Militants in Gaza launch useless rockets, Mousa refuses to eat, the people of Ni'lin hold demonstrations, the youths sling stones.

And I? I travel to the West Bank for a couple of weeks each summer, and write this pointless blog.


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