Tag Archives: Nabi Saleh

Dialogue and Peace Talking or Just Words, Words, Words?

(more photos to follow, be sure to check back)

Truth and reconciliation is an inspiring and healing ideal but can reconciliation happen without truth? They are surely inseparable – you just can’t have one without the other. As the majority of the Israel public is in denial of Al Nakba, its creation of the refugee situation and the existence of a country called Palestine (which it classifies as disputed territories) it would seem that true reconciliation via any Peace Process is impossible. Also there is a dichotomy between what the popular resistance on the ground want and the ‘negotiations’ that take place between the global actors with their blueprints of how to achieve the seemingly unachievable.

‘Dialoguing’ with the Israeli Army in Nabi Saleh May 10th

The Friday non-violent demonstration started in a light mood with many songs and kids playfully running around. When the skunk tank made its way up the road the march dispersed. Some went into the village; others made there way up to the hill overlooking the village spring, which has been seized by settlers and is now out of bounds to Nabi Saleh villagers.

The soldiers were already there preventing access to the hillside, probably on the pretext of it being a closed military zone though no paperwork was shown. The Palestinian woman who had lead the singing attempted a talk with them, which was met with stoic silence. She became quite animated, telling them they were standing on village land, while we looked on.

After about 10 minutes, a soldier said ‘you don’t want to leave’ and proceeded to let off sound grenades and shoot tear gas so we walked quickly into neighbours’ houses. On the other side of the village, Bilal, who has a press card and video camera donated to him by the Israeli human rights organisation B’tselem to record events in Nabi Saleh, had a more violent confrontation with the army. Believing he was being targeted by a soldier, he stood in front of his house, and was hit with a tear gas canister. Luckily only on his arm.

Gill's blog 24 May 2013

Photo credit: Tamimi Press

So this is the face of the occupation on the ground, what happens on the top level?

The Renewal of the Peace Talks

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has asked for a halt to settlement building before sitting down to the creaking negotiating table in June. While Israeli leader Benjamin Netahaynu has halted proposed settlement expansion in E1, 294 houses have been given the go ahead in Bet El. And yesterday, 16th May, he legalised 4 outposts which until now the Israeli Civil Administration considered illegal. Many believe the two state solution is dead in the water and the only hope for the Palestinians is the one state option. On that note here are two comments from Henry Siegman, an Israeli Jewish elder and statesman: ‘The Peace Process is probably the greatest scam in modern diplomatic history, and future historians are going to be absolutely in awe in how that was pulled off’ and ‘ Israel has crossed the threshold from “the only democracy in the Middle East” to the only apartheid regime in the Western world’. It’s Friday and I return to Nabi Saleh to witness another “dialogue” with the IOF.

* http://www.arabnews.com/news/45168 ** http://mondoweiss.net/2013/05/prophetic-siegman-statesman.html

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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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What price Palestinian Statehood? – West Bank Under Increased Threat

The jubilant celebrations that I witnessed in Palestine when the UN General Assembly voted for an observer state status are in direct conflict with the grim reality on the ground. All non-violent demonstrations that resist the occupation of Palestine are deemed illegal and suppressed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) – relabelled to reflect its real role as the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF). Any place where a demonstration takes place – village, street or field can be decreed a Closed Military Zone and demonstrators attacked using an array of deterrents: skunk water, tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, live ammunition and arrests. In Nabi Saleh when I was there my friend’s brother, sitting on the hill overlooking the village spring ‘stolen’ by the settlement Halamish, was shot and subsequently died of his wounds.

Collective Punishment

The day after the after the Palestinians obtained a limited statehood at the United Nations General Assembly, the Israeli government decided “to punish” them by tripling its illegal settlement building. Plans for building in E1 zone (see below) is a ‘game-changer’, destroying any chances of a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

HFOY map for blog 15 Jan 2013

A New Form of Resistance

Last Friday, Facebook and Twitter were on fire with news of a tent village, optimistically called Bab AlShams, the Gate of the Sun, secretly erected in E1 but on private, Palestine land next to a Bedouin encampment.HFOY Photo of E1 occupation

Carefully planned with about 250 demonstrators coming from all over the West Bank, braving the bitter cold, the village was equipped with a medical tent, wifi hotspot, embedded international news outlets, kitchen, library and rubbish collection. One leader called it ‘constructive resistance’..

The village lasted two days, Eviction was temporarily halted when lawyers obtained an injunction from the High Court of Justice. Netanyahu demanded that this should be overturned, the Ministry of Justice claiming: “There is an urgent security need to evacuate the area of the people and tents,” suggesting without evidence that a few hundred unarmed activists presented a grave threat to public safety. This action illustrates Israeli racist policies: there are 120 illegal outposts (embryonic settlements) in the West Bank, which are never dismantled but are allowed to gradually expand before being eventually declared ‘legal’ by the Israeli state.

A New Model for Non-Violent Protest?

The camp was evicted by about 500 occupation soldiers. Protesters refusing to leave were assaulted, six needing hospitalization. Mohammed Khatib of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said: ‘ We will not remain silent as Israel continues to build Jewish-only colonies on our land. Bab Al Shams is no more, but during its short two days it gave new life and energy to all who passed through it. In establishing Bal Al Shams we declare that we have had enough of demanding our rights from the occupier – from now on we shall seize them ourselves’.

As the USA and the EU sit idly by, it is up to the Palestinian grass roots movement to stand up for justice again – is this the start of the 3rd Intifada?



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A Jubilant Ramallah and Reality on the Ground

It’s UN vote day and, as I leave Ramallah to go to stay with my friends Boshra and Nargi in Nabi Saleh, the atmosphere is already festive in Ramallah. Pal flags waving, a stage going up in Arafat Square, a woman leading a small chanting crowd, boys wanting their photo taken. After the sombre grief that accompanied Rushdi’s funeral procession, when even the traffic was halted, and the demonstrations for Gaza, the Ramallah mood has changed just in the space of two weeks.

Announcing the new Palestinian state in Ramallah

Announcing the new Palestinian state in Ramallah

Palestinians happy about the new state of Palestine

Palestinians happy about the new state of Palestine

Being interviewed about the new state of Palestine

Being interviewed about the new state of Palestine

Later in Nabi Saleh, there is elation too as some shabbab* and family watch the news as the UN vote is announced. Ba’ha, the village’s best singer and a stand up comedian to boot, is practising new lyrics for the next day’s demo.

'Shebabb' (youth) cheer the UN vote

‘Shebabb’ (youth) cheer the UN vote

But the vote makes no difference to the Israeli Occupation Force’s behaviour at the Friday Demonstration, where the new lyrics celebrating the UN success are jubilantly sung to traditional tunes. Skunk water is in more abundance, there is no wind to carry it away, and we all run up the road as usual, while the shabbab take up their positions. The tear gas firing is relatively brief so everyone repairs to the hill (or mountain as they call it) overlooking the highway, Halamish settlement, and the village spring, to wait for the solders to disperse the crowd, which they eventually do. (Apparently they are going to train US troops with urban tactics…..I could do it at half the price – just make stinky clouds by shooting tear gas and add some rubber bullets for good measure. Then of course show them how to demolish houses, raze fields, and beat people up!)

Regular Friday protest about settler land seizures in Nabi Saleh

Regular Friday protest about settler land seizures in Nabi Saleh

Israeli army attack demonstrators, skirmish with local youths

Israeli army attack demonstrators, skirmish with local youths

But, no live ammo today.  We watch as one car below with an Palestinian flag waving from its window is stopped by the army below…..is this really the true picture? Statehood in name only?

The ‘demo’ ends, and the shabbab play football in front of Boshra’s house, she cooks a brilliant meal and we all sit on the floor to enjoy, spilling out in to the next room – no one is ever left out. It is the Palestinian way.

Friday meal, after the protest

Friday meal, after the protest

So what are the Palestinians thinking about the UN vote? I hear different opinions all round : from positive reactions or cautious approval to: ‘it’s a joke’. The last was from a taxi driver and probably reflects the cynicism of taxi drivers world wide!

Back in Ramallah, my heart lifts every time I see a Pal flag streaming from a shop, car, or servees, but the reality could be that it’s just a hollow victory. More importantly did it take another Gaza atrocity to give the Pals a limited entry to the international political circus?

Sorry, it’s the taxi driver coming out in me.

I leave Palestine with a heavy heart, but knowing I have learnt some amazing lessons in how to be human from the Palestinians; I am in awe of how they cope with the occupation of their land and their suffering brought about by denial of their human rights.

Stay human!

*’shabab’ is what Palestinians call the boys who harrass the occupation army by throwing stones at them. Shabab mean ‘youth’ in Arabic.

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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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