Category Archives: International volunteers

Road Sign – In Reality a Symbol of Occupation and Apartheid

As I travel in a ‘Servis’ (7-seater mini bus), from Ramallah to Nablus, I notice the proliferation of new road signs at the road side entrances to Palestinian villages. They remind me of zoo warning signs for dangerous animals! No need to put similar signs in front of settlements – they are well protected from ‘intruders’ by high wire fences and patrolling armed security staff. Palestinians are only allowed to enter settlements if they have a work permit. Settlers, on the other hand, are free to roam Palestinian land at will, even to attack farmers and uproot trees.

Gill 2013 road sign warning against Palestinians

Correction from last post

How could I get it so wrong? In my last post I said that Tommy Donnellen had been hit by a gas canister. I’ve seen enough wounds by now that I should know the wound was from a steel coated rubber bullet.

Gill 2013 Tommy with wound

He was standing behind the wall of the petrol station, where I often stand with other photographers, professional and amateur, to snap the interplay between the boy stone throwers (‘shebab’) – and the occupation forces. There were no medics around last Friday so Anne, a French photographer, and I were trying to get some ice on the wound, but he was stoically holding out! Tommy is a relentless activist from Galway Ireland who who has been documenting Palestinian non-violent resistance* for a few years, Maybe that was why he was targeted. I hope that he is healing.

Ongoing oppression tactics

Did a truce ever exist? As I write this, Gaza is being bombarded by Israeli air strikes. In the villages surrounding Ramalla land confiscation goes on for military expansion.

* Friday protests are always essentially non-violent. Peaceful marches are halted by the Israeli occupation forces using skunk water and tear gas, then as the march breaks up teenages (‘shebab’) throw stones at the soldiers, who respond with more tear gas and rubber bullets.

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Follow your heart (and part of mine is in Nabi Saleh)

My return to Palestine 30th March 2013, Good Friday!

‘Eat, eat, you are in Nabi Saleh!,’ says Boshra. ‘I have just rocked up from Ramallah on the servis.’ She is not expecting me but after hugs, kisses and tears (on my part) she has prepared brunch and tells me about her recent speaking tour in France. Arranged by the French equivalent of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, she, Manal, and Nariman spent 22 days travelling and giving talks about resistance and Palestinian women . It has been a resounding success and has empowered Boshra no end – when I left last December her energy seemed quite low.

Outside the boys kick a ball around as they do before and after the Friday demonstration.

Gill 2013 Boys playing football

After her daughter Bezan hands me my shades I left there in December, she and friend Ola pose for a picture. The young are media savvy here, forever documenting their lives and using Facebook.

Gill 2013 Ola posing with sunglasses 

 The uniqueness of Nabi

The small close knit village of 500 Tamimis, has resisted the occupation since 2009 after the theft of their village spring by the settlement of Halamish. Halamiksh was built from 1977 onwards on stolen Nabi Saleh land. Unique because three of the community leaders are the women I mentioned before and the children are in the forefront of the start of the Friday march.

At one time the children were not included but as Manal says they decided to teach them not to be afraid. She herself was beaten and arrested in 2009 in front of her three year old. “We had to break this wall of fear in our kids to be able to continue the struggle in the future,” she stated in an interview.

Gill 2013 Children leading march

 Manal Tamini, currently studying for her law degree, remembers childhood picking grapes and figs – so wonderful and fresh – on the land where Halamish now sits

Her husband Bilal says ‘the resistance is for our kids future, so they can grow up and follow their dreams and their kids too’.

 This Good Friday

Today’s demo seems unusually low key, neither the Israeli Occupation Forces or the ‘shebab’ is really engaged in the usual ritual. Some people tried to head off to the spring; there was a bit of skunk water, some tear gas. Here is Manal running from it:

Gill 2013 Manal running from teargas

The only injury was to Tommy Donnellen, filming from the petrol station and shot at twice. As reported in the Belfast Telegraph, a tear gas canister punctured his upper right arm. I read the press report and the only discrepancy I can find is that they reported they he tried to reason with the soldiers, but he told me he shouted you motherf**cker, lost in Irish translation?

I find being in Nabi, especially with the women, inspirational.

I believe we all learn from each other and the lessons about me, me, me I have learnt from these women are boundless. To return to another pop song, as I do shamelessly, – Hope by Emeli Sande, one for las Passionaras?

I hope that the world stops raining
Stops turning it’s back on the young
See nobody here is blameless
I hope that we can fix all that we’ve done
I really hope Martin can see this
I hope that we still have a dream
I’m hoping that change isn’t hopeless
I’m hoping to start it with me
I hope we start seeing forever
Instead of what we can gain in a day
I hope we start seeing each other
Cause don’t we all bleed the same
I really hope someone can hear me
That a child doesn’t bear the weight of a gun
I find the voice within me
To scream at the top of my lungs
Louder, I cannot hear you
How can things be better left unsaid
Call me, call me a dreamer
But it seems like dreams are all that we’ve got left
I hope we still have a heartbeat
I hope we don’t turn to snow
A night when you turn the lights off
I hope you don’t cry alone
I hope we stop taking for granted
All of the land and all of the sea
I’m taking a chance on loving
I hope that you take it with me

 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Thank you Nabi Saleh, especially Boshra, Nariman and Manal.

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Nabi Saleh, Non-violent Demonstration

23rd November 2012, ‘Remembering the Martyrs’

The weather has changed, winter has finally come to the West Bank, it’s pouring cats and dogs. The protesters gather and the mood is warm and welcoming as usual, but there is a more sombre atmosphere today as the demonstration is commemorating the deaths of Rusdhi Tamimi, shot by an Israeli soldier at last Friday’s demonstration, and from the same family Mustafa Tamimi, killed in Nabi Saleh on December 10 2011 when a tear gas canister was shot at his face.

The Israeli activists have come in force this week, defying the Military Orders recently served at 3am at their homes in Israel, forbidding them to come to ‘closed military zones’ in the West Bank. This is what the village becomes on a Friday…..totally disallowing the villagers their human right to peacefully protest against the Occupation, and the theft of their land and water.

We set off on what is always a very short march, The Palestinian flags wave, pictures of Rushdi and Mustafa carried with front, chanting and singing nationalist songs.

Demonstration at Nabi Saleh

Rusdhi Tamimi, shot by Israeli forces at Nabi Saleh

I say short because as usual, it will be stopped with tear gas, skunk water and, later rubber bullets. Of course the live ammunition that killed Rushdi is used as well, but normally only after the shabab have replied to the onslaught of the Israeli Occupation Forces  with stones from their slingshots.

And that is exactly what happened today. The terrain is hilly, we march down the Main Street and turn the corner knowing round the next bend, hidden by a hill,  the Israeli Occupation Forces are ready with the ‘skunk tank’ and armoured jeeps. There are fewer soldiers today, perhaps they are still hanging out on the Gaza border. They soldiers spray skunk water at the protesters, they fire tear gas, and then most people run back up the hill.  All except the shabab, for the Israeli attack is their signal to start using their slingshots.

It is almost ritualistic.  Observers have a grandstand view of the shabab running up and down the hills, dodging the plumes of tear gas and occasionally lobbing the odd canister that’s come their way, back towards the IOF. As usual, the soldiers don’t seem to move much, rarely giving chase. But they move their jeeps around, and when they do come forward we move again to minimise the effects of the tear gas. The shabab are always regrouping and coming from different angles. Their sling shot accuracy is very poor and seldom does a stone actually hit anyone!

After about an hour of this cat and mouse game, we return to Nargi and Boshra Tamimi’s house for coffee, soft drinks and solidarity chat. The sling shot shebabs turn up and behave just like teenagers normally do, having jokes and mucking around. The Tamimi youngsters, who always attend the demos, are clearing up the rain sodden patio areas, before finishing their homework ready for school or college on Monday.

The whole scenario is so domestic, the demos being slotted into a normal routine, (or as normal as it can be living under occupation). The highly trained Israeli army have returned for Shabbat, having proved, once again, they are really good at suppressing the village’s non violent demos but not their spirit.

Peaceful marcher walk toward the Israeli occupation roadblock

Israeli soldiers break up the peaceful demonstration

The funeral for Rusdhi Tamimi as held in Ramallah last week.

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Land Grab

How one settlement evolved

One of my fellow olive pickers from a French solidarity group asked me why we call settlements settlements, ‘Zaire colonies’ he said. How true, common parlance has diluted the true essence of the land grab in the West Bank. This was bought to mind an earlier occasion when we were supporting, by olive picking, the deputy mayor of Kafr Qaddom. He gazed over the colony of Qedomim that has appropriated half of his village’s land. He and his brother had been attacked the previous day by around 100 settlers and the army were called. They told him to return the next day and they would offer protection. He asked for assistance from the international solidarity volunteers. As we picked olives I wondered why the soldiers their eyes fixed on us and not the settlement where the potential aggression might come from!

Looking over the settlement

I have been increasingly interested in how the West Bank land grab has happened. Below is a profile of Qedumim.

Qedumim, also spelt Kedomim, was first ‘settled’ in 1975 by 12 families. It is south west of Nablus. The name in Hebrew means ‘Ancient’ but is also remarkably similar to the Qaddom in Kafr Qaddom, the original Palestinian village. This follows the Israeli pattern of calling settlements with like sounding names. The slogan on their website is: ‘The Vanguard of Jewish Resettlement in Samaria’. Kafr Qaddom (the Palestinian community) has lost 58% of its land to Qedumim

Gush Emumim and the Origins of Qedumim
Gush Emunin was an Israeli messianic and political movements committed to establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. It sprang out of the 1967 War, and was formally organised in the 1974 in the wake of the Yom Kippur war.

Gush Emunim’s platform defined the movement’s mission in the following way: “To bring about a major spiritual reawakening in the Jewish people for the sake of the full realization of the Zionist vision, in the knowledge that this vision’s source and goal in the Jewish heritage and in Judaism’s roots are the total redemption of both the Jewish people and the whole world.”

In 1975 part of Gush Emunim tried to establish itself in Sebastia, north of Nablus. Eventually this was unsuccessful and they were evicted by the IDF and given temporary housing in Kadum a former Jordanian military base. In 1977, under the protection of Shimon Peres, the then Minister of Defence, Qedumim was given official recognition.

Municipalities, ‘Neighbourhoods’
and the Growth of Settlements

Har Hemed is an example of an outpost that has been incorporated into a municipality. After Oslo Accords, it was agreed that settlements should not be expanded except by natural growth (although this was not exactly defined and whether it could include immigrants was never made clear). Outposts were not exactly legal either officially but received funds from governments ministries. By a process of naming them ‘neighbourhoods’ and zoning the area into a regional council the settlement could grow by stealth. All municipal areas are off limits to Palestinians unless issued with a permit and are virtually enclaves.
As the map indicates, if the proposed barrier is built (black dotted line) Qedumim could become parter of a much larger enclave together with the settlements around Wadi Qana, which is already categorised as a ‘natural reserve’. Closed military zones and nature reserves are tools used by the occupation to evict Palestinians and/or curtail agricultural activity.

Map of settlement

Impacts on Kafr Qaddum

Apart from losing more than 50% of their land, this village is cut off from areas of their agricultural land by the settlement. Also, since 2003, access to their land and to Nablus has been affected by the closure of the linking road that passes by the settlement. This makes travel much longer: for a farmer with land the other side of route 60, it means a 10K journey via Al Funduk, it takes double the time to travel to Nablus.

Farmers have suffered multiple incidents of aggression from the settlers. On the edge of the deputy mayor’s land is a house that used to be used by his father when he grazed his animals. He said it was frequently occupied by settlers who left trash and daubed the walls with Hebrew slogans. For more details of settler aggression see, land confiscation and access links.

Present Day Ideology of Qedomim

Gush Emunim has declined as an organisation. However, its influence lives on and its raison d’être made more acceptable. This is encapsulated by one time mayor, Daniella Weiss, a right wing activist instrumental in the settlement’s expansion, who claims the settlement was built on a barren hilltop and is of strategic importance to Israel’s security and ‘must out pace the rapid, often illegal, building by Palestinian Arabs’.

Map of settlements and ‘Area C’

Although land grab can never be condoned, violent Palestine resistance can give the settler movement reason to feel threatened. In 2006, a suicide bomber who had hitched a lift, blew himself up at the gates of Qedomin killing 4 people 3 of whom lived in the settlement. The Al Asqa brigade claimed responsibility.

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Weekly demonstrations continue at Nabi Saleh

Hastings Friends of Yatma member Gill Knight was part of the weekly demonstration in Nabi Saleh last week. See video Residents of Nabi Saleh have conducted peaceful demonstrations against the occupation following the seizure of a spring and land by settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli colony of Halamish. These are normally family affairs, involving children and much of the community. The demonstrators walk to the settlers-only road near the village, where they are met by the army, which blocks their progress. Typically the demonstration is broken up by the Israeli army, using tear gas, and sound grenades, in a pattern described in an article Normalising Violence-a Report from Nabi Saleh. The army also often sprays the demonstrators with a vile smelling liquid called ‘skunk’. (There are many videos of the Nabi Saleh demonstrations on YouTube, which can be accessed by entering ‘nabi saleh’ )

Demonstrations end with teenagers throwing stones at the army, and the army firing tear gas and rubber bullets (steel balls covered in rubber) at the stone throwers. Recently a young Palestinians was killed at Nabi Saleh when an soldier fired a tear gas canister at his face at close range. Occupation forces have conducted night raids in Nabi Saleh to capture and imprison the teenage stone throwers, many of whom languish in Israeli jails. See Wikipedia entry

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Filed under International volunteers, Israeli occupation forces, Land seizures, Prisoners