August 3, 2011: Palestine Monitor
Last Friday, international and Palestinian activists witnessed what has become routine in Nabi Salih—the disproportionate use of force used by the Israeli army against demonstrations in the village.
Protests in Nabi Saleh started in 2009 in response to the illegal seizure of the land surrounding the village—including the spring named Ein al-Qaws—by the nearby settlement of Halamish. Before that, the spring was owned by a Palestinian resident of the village, Bashir Tamimi.
By seizing control of the spring and its surroundings—and denying Palestinians access to their land—the Israeli settlers, who receive significance support from the Israeli army, have taken almost all resources away the residents of Nabi Salih.
This tactic is nothing new.
Romans deployed the same strategy against the Galls in the first century A.D., during their conquest of northern Europe. Cutting off natural resources or polluting the nearby area is an inhumane but effective tactic to demoralize a population and curb organized rebellion or resistance.
Nevertheless, it does not seem to be working in Nabi Salih.
Since 2009, villagers of Nabi Sali have held regular Friday protests. Starting out to resist the confiscation of their spring, the demonstrations now target the Israeli occupation in full. They are supported both by community members from the nearby village of Dir Nizam and international activists.
Last Friday, at around 11:00AM, one Israeli army jeep approached the village. A handful of young boys—between five to seven years old—perched on the surrounding hills, watching. One or two of them threw rocks at the armoured vehicle.
A few minutes later two other Israeli vehicles joined the first one; soldiers got out and started shooting tear-gas projectiles and sound bombs in the direction of the young boys.
Other Israeli troops positioned themselves in the fields surrounding the village. The army established themselves on top of the promontory in front of Nabi Salih’s main road, where they had a secure and strategic vantage point.
After nearly an hour of shooting—which targeted not only the adjacent hills where protesters were standing, but also houses—and attempts by commandos to chase down and detain the protesters, the situation calmed.
But only for a moment.
International and local media agents worked their way to the soldiers. They stood behind the army’s vehicles and began taking pictures and recording videos.
The reporters were harassed and bullied by the soldiers, some brutally.
Among the media workers was Muheep Barghouthi, a photojournalist for Al-Hayat, a leading London-based Arabic news source. (http://www.daralhayat.com/morenews/english/) Israeli soldiers surrounded him. “I’m an accredited journalist,” Barghouthi said, “you do not have any right to harass me this way.”
Two soldiers gripped him, and a kicking and shouting Muheep was thrown into an army vehicle bound for a jail cell in the nearby settlement of Halamish.
Meanwhile, on top of the hill, members of the village, protesters and international activists were going forward with the regular peaceful protest planned for the afternoon.
Amongst them were women and children, protesters from the nearby village of Dir Nizam, members of the International Solidarity Movement and independent journalists and filmmakers.
At around 3:00PM, the protesters gathered and started walking down the hill singing protest songs mostly against the settlement of Halamish.
Soon after, they were met by a shower of tear-gas projectiles and sound bombs.
The protesters tried to find shelters in nearby houses, but a dozen Israeli soldiers chased them and raided the homes. Some protestors ran through the narrow streets of the village towards the fields.
Soldiers approached one house where two of the most senior members of the Tamimi family were sitting outside.
The soldiers asked for IDs and they were provided. Abu Hossam Tamimi and his brother Abu Hasraf asked the soldiers about their conduct. There are abuses in this village, they said, and excessive violence.
The Palestine Monitor questioned the person who was leading the small platoon, asking the reasons for their behaviour. No answers were given. After few minutes, the soldiers silently left.
At 7:00PM, the day of protest was coming to an end. The soldiers had parked their vehicles at the entrance of the village blocking any way of escape while one of their jeeps patrolled the surroundings for any lingering protesters.
The sun was setting and Nabi Salih’s main street was littered with used sound bombs and empty tear-gas shells. People sat in their houses and back gardens waiting for the soldiers to leave. Around 8:00PM a last battery of tears-gas ammunitions was shot.
As soon as the last Israeli army vehicles left, villagers started coming out and gathered in the street, exchanging their impressions from the day. Kids collected empty shells and played with them like they were toys. Exhausted from the day’s gruelling battle, the villagers remain nevertheless determined to continue their fight.