West Bank village punished for exposing Israel’s brutality

Nancy Murray, The Electronic Intifada

21 December 2015

Members of the Tamimi family prevent an Israeli soldier from arresting Muhammad Tamimi, 12, during the weekly protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on 28 August. Muhannad Saleem ActiveStills

The small West Bank village of Nabi Saleh is paying a steep price for a video of Israeli brutality.

Widely circulated in recent months, the video shows the mother and sister of 12-year-old Muhammad Tamimi wresting him away from a masked and armed Israeli soldier. The boy was throttled and jammed into boulders on 28 August, despite having a cast on his arm.

Israeli politicians not only defended the Israeli soldier’s actions; some argued that he should have behaved in an even more cruel manner.

Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister, said that the soldier should have shot the boy’s unarmed rescuers.

Since the incident, the Israeli army has detained scores of young men from the village and subjected them to lengthy periods of interrogation, during which abusive treatment occurred.

Seventeen are currently imprisoned, including Waed Tamimi, Muhammad’s 19-year-old brother.

Waed was arrested, along with his 20-year-old cousin Anan, during a 19 October night raid on the home of Waed’s parents, Nariman and Bassem Tamimi. Four other young men were seized by the army that same night, including Louay Tamimi, whose brother Mustafa was killed in December 2011 when a soldier fired a high velocity tear gas canister at his head from a meter away.

Bassem Tamimi, who was on a lecture tour of the US when his son was arrested, has himself been detained a dozen times. He has also been tortured and spent three years in prison without a conviction.
Defying military orders

Bassem and his cousin Naji, the father of Anan, have been recognized as human rights defenders by the European Union. In 2012, Bassem was declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

The cousins have helped coordinate their village’s unarmed resistance activities. Rather than submit mutely to the confiscation of their land and freshwater spring by Israeli settlers, the residents of Nabi Saleh have for the last six years held spirited weekly demonstrations demanding an end to the Israeli occupation.

In so doing, they have defied Israeli Military Order 101, which criminalizes participation in protests, assemblies and vigils, as well as waving flags and distributing political material. Efforts to influence public opinion are prohibited as “political incitement.”

Palestinians face Israeli soldiers during the weekly protest in Nabi Saleh village in 2011. Anne Paq ActiveStills

But to Nabi Saleh residents, such military orders are inherently unjust. During his June 2011 trial for organizing demonstrations, Bassem Tamimi told the court:

“Despite claiming to be the only democracy in the Middle East, you are trying me under military laws which lack any legitimacy; laws that are enacted by authorities that I have not elected and do not represent me. I am accused of organizing peaceful civil demonstrations that have no military aspects and are legal under international law. We have the right to express our rejection of occupation in all of its forms; to defend our freedom and dignity as a people and to seek justice and peace in our land in order to protect our children and secure their future.”

Israeli and international activists have frequently joined the weekly protests in Nabi Saleh, and face an army deploying stun grenades, tear gas, skunk water, rubber-coated steel bullets and live ammunition. Hundreds of demonstrators have been injured, some permanently, and two were killed.

Over the years, as many as 200 villagers have been detained out of a population of just over 500. All of them belong to Tamimi clan.
Why is the world silent?

At the 28 August protest, the army arrested Bassem’s 19-year-old nephew, Mahmoud. Vittorio Fera, an Italian activist, was also detained.

Fera was swiftly acquitted by an Israeli civil court from the charge of throwing stones and other objects.

Mahmoud — who faces identical charges in the military court system — has spent months now in Ofer, an Israeli prison in the West Bank, without a hearing.

For Palestinians, including children, there is no presumption of innocence and little likelihood of acquittal, given the 99.74 percent conviction rate in military courts.

Most of these convictions are a result of plea bargains, agreed to after the coercive extraction of confessions from children as well as adults. Some prisoners may be sentenced to administrative detention. Under that practice, detainees are held without charge or trial and without being told what evidence the authorities hold on them.


Palestinian youths from the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh during a hearing at Ofer military court on 21 December. Oren Ziv ActiveStills


The 17 young men from Nabi Saleh may have been marooned in military prisons — where their families cannot visit them or even send them warm winter clothes — because someone from the village has been intimidated into saying who they saw throwing stones.

Two young men detained on 9 December have now been released, but Nabi Saleh families fear there will be more arrests. Israel appears bent on doing everything it can to impose collective punishment on a village that serves as the symbol of resistance to a nearly half-century-long military occupation.

As the youth await trials and anticipate years in prison, US activists have set up a Facebook page to press for their release. Bassem Tamimi, meanwhile, wonders why the international community has not taken a determined stand against Israel’s relentless repression.

“The silence of the world is worse than what the occupier is doing,” he said. “We can’t understand this silence, because our struggle is for humanity and the world is supposed to care about human rights.”

Nancy Murray, who for 25 years was director of education at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, has worked for Palestinian rights since her first trip to the region in 1988.

Haaretz & Daily Mail: Palestinian Women, Children Stop IOF Soldier Detaining a Minor

by Nabi Saleh Solidarity 28 August 2015

Both Israeli and International media have covered the incident in Nabi Saleh where an Israeli solider attacked and tried to kidnap a young Palestinian boy, only to be over powered by Palestinian women and girls from the village. The women and girls succeeded in freeing the child, who had a broken arm and was being held in a headlock at gun point.

An 18 year old Palestinian youth was also arrested by the IOF on the day.

Palestinian Women, Children Stop IDF Soldier Detaining a Minor

Activists at the protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh say the soldier used violence against the 12-year-old boy.
Gili Cohen, Haaretz,  Aug 28, 2015
An Israeli soldier tried to detain a minor during clashes in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday, but a number of Palestinian women and children managed to stop him.
According to the army, the youth was throwing stones at the troops, who did not realize he was a minor.
Photographs taken by Reuters and AFP show the soldier surrounded by women and children. In one of the images, a young girl is seen biting his hand.
The soldier was lightly wounded as a result of the altercation. The commander in the area decided to release the minor. The army said that one other Palestinian was detained in Friday’s clashes, along with one foreign activist.
Activists who were at Friday’s protest said that the soldier used violence against the 12-year-old boy, whose arm was in a cast at the time of the attempted arrest. Jonathan Pollak, one of the activists present, said that the boy did not throw stones and that the IDF force, which was in an abandoned building before approaching to detain the boy, could see he was a minor. Pollak told Haaretz that the soldier pointed his gun at the boy when he was detaining him.
The Israeli army spokesman responded in a statement that there was “a violent disturbance of the peace in Nabi Saleh, in which Palestinians threw stones at IDF forces that were in the place. The youth who was photographed was identified by the lookout force as a stone-thrower, and because of this it was decided to detain him. At the time of the arrest, a violent provocation by a number of Palestinians developed, including women and children. In light of the violent altercation, the commander decided to not to go ahead with the detention.”

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Extraordinary moment that desperate Palestinian women fought and BIT an Israeli soldier after he put boy with a broken arm in a headlock at gunpoint

  • Israeli soldier pins boy to the floor with machine gun held up near his cheek in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh
  • But the gunman is ambushed by young girl who forces weapon from his hand and two women who claw at his face
  • The soldier eventually flees the scene, leaving the young girl to cradle the terrified boy in her arms on the ground
  • Clash happened during demonstrastions against Palestinian land confiscation to expand nearby Jewish settlement

This is the remarkable moment a young girl and two women overpower an Israeli soldier who grappled a Palestinian boy with a broken arm to the floor at gunpoint.

The soldier placed the boy in a headlock while armed with a machine gun during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.

With terror etched on his face, the boy is powerless to move as the gunman towers over him, with the muzzle of his weapon just inches from his cheek.

Palestinians scuffle with an Israeli soldier as they try to prevent him from detaining a boy during a protest against Jewish settlements in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah August 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Palestinians fight to free a Palestinian boy held by an Israeli soldier during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters

But as he pins the boy to a rock, the soldier suddenly finds himself ambushed by a young girl who forces the weapon from his grasp and bites his hand.

Meanwhile, two women claw at his balaclava-clad face and drag him off the youngster, who has his arm in a sling.

Eventually, the gunman flees the scene, leaving the young girl to cradle the terrified boy in her arms.

It is not clear what the boy had done to provoke the soldier into taking such drastic action, but it is not uncommon for protesters, and sometimes children, to hurl stones at security forces during demonstrations.

Terrified: An Israeli soldier puts a young boy in a headlock at gunpoint during clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters following a march against Palestinian land confiscation to expand the Jewish Hallamish settlement in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh

Terrified: An Israeli soldier puts a young boy in a headlock at gunpoint during clashes between security forces and Palestinian protesters following a march against Palestinian land confiscation to expand the Jewish Hallamish settlement in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh

With terror etched on his face, the boy is powerless to move as the gunman towers over him, the muzzle of his weapon inches from his cheek

With terror etched on his face, the boy is powerless to move as the gunman towers over him, the muzzle of his weapon inches from his cheek

Attacked: As he pins the boy to a rock, the soldier finds himself ambushed by a girl, who forces the weapon from his grasp, and two women

Attacked: As he pins the boy to a rock, the soldier finds himself ambushed by a girl, who forces the weapon from his grasp, and two women

Ambushed: As the girl bites his hand, two women claw at his balaclava-clad face and drag him off the youngster, who has his arm in a sling

Ambushed: As the girl bites his hand, two women claw at his balaclava-clad face and drag him off the youngster, who has his arm in a sling

The soldier fights back as the girl tries to prevent him from detaining the boy during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh

The soldier fights back as the girl tries to prevent him from detaining the boy during a protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh

In her loving arms: Eventually, the gunman flees the scene, leaving the young girl to cradle the terrified boy on the floor

The clash happened in the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, during protests against Palestinian land confiscation to expand the nearby Jewish Hallamish settlement.

In another flashpoint, Palestinian protester hurled stones at Israeli army bulldozer during clashes which following a protest against Israeli settlements in Qadomem, Kofr Qadom village, near the the West Bank city of Nablus.

They come a day after the European Union’s outgoing envoy to the Palestinian territories said the 28-nation bloc was moving forward with measures against Jewish West Bank settlements.

The envoy, John Gatt-Rutter, did not provide a timeframe. But his remarks to reporters underline European discontent with Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in territory that Palestinians want for a future state.

Nabi Saleh: Israeli forces ‘ambush’ demonstrators, injuring 2 with live fire

By Nabi Saleh Solidarity: 24 July 2015

On Friday in Nabi Saleh, Israeli Occupation Forces opened fire with live ammunition during Friday protest against Israel’s occupation and land grabs. The IOF shot a 17 year old boy twice in the leg with live ammunition and a 27 year old man in the thigh with live ammunition.

Video by Bilal Tamimi

Video by Israel Puterman

Israeli forces ‘ambush’ demonstrators, injuring 2 with live fire

July 24, 2015 MAAN NEWS

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Two Palestinians were shot and injured by Israeli forces Friday during a weekly demonstration in the occupied West Bank town of Nabi Saleh, witnesses said.Israeli forces had reportedly set an “ambush” near the path where demonstrators planned to walk, opening live fire as the marchers headed towards land confiscated by the neighboring Halamish settlement.During the incident, forces shot a 17-year-old with two live bullets. Witnesses say a bullet passed through one thigh, entering and settling in the teen’s other thigh, while a second bullet hit him in the back.A 27-year-old was also shot in the leg. The injured demonstrators were taken to a hospital in Ramallah for treatment.Israeli soldiers attempted to prevent the ambulance carrying those injured from leaving the scene for a short period of time, witnesses added.An Israeli army spokesperson had no immediate information on the incident.Two Palestinians have died from live Israeli fire in the past few days, bringing the total number of fatalities at the hands of Israeli forces to 17 since the start of 2015.Rights groups have criticized Israel for disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians during demonstrations.While crowd control weapons are intended to be non-lethal, many methods used by Israeli forces can cause death, severe injury, and damage to property, critics say.Residents of Nabi Saleh — similar to villages and towns across the occupied West Bank — have staged weekly demonstrations for years in protest of private land confiscated by Israeli authorities.Large portions of the Jewish-only Halamish settlement is built on land belonging to Nabi Saleh residents.




Palestinian girl rises to fame as amateur reporter

Nine-year-old Jana tells her story of Israeli occupation using mobile phone.

Through a child’s lens

The Arab Weekly
Nida Ibrahim 24.04.2015

Nabi Saleh, West Bank – When Jana Jihad cut the cake on her ninth birthday on April 10th, she made a wish to “see Neymar,” the Brazilian foot­ball star who plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona.

The wish was as far-fetched as the complexities in the life of the third-grader.

Dubbed the youngest amateur journalist in the Palestinian terri­tories, Jana hopes to tell her story from the viewpoint of a Palestin­ian child: From Israeli tear-gas to stun grenades, night raids and even losing friends, Jana’s child­hood is often interrupted with dramatic events in the village of Nabi Saleh, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Home for 600 residents, Nabi Saleh is the site of weekly dem­onstrations against the Israeli oc­cupation. Every Friday for five years villagers have protested the occupation that is manifested by a Jewish settlement built on the vil­lagers’ lands.

The Israeli army, often present in a military watchtower at the entrance of the village, shuts the village’s entrance with a large metal bar. Tensions rise as local protesters and international peace activists hoist Palestinian flags and head towards the closed gate. The army often tries to disperse the protesters with tear gas, foul-smelling water, stun grenades and even live ammunition. Two young men have been killed in the dem­onstrations.

Whereas journalists are present for the demonstrations, Jana says she feels the media don’t show all injustices happening in her vil­lage. As soon as she hits the record button on her moth­er’s mobile phone, Jihad pans the camera while describing the atmos­phere around her.

One to two min­utes later, Jana switches the camera to show her face and signs off the report with her name like a professional.

“I want the world to know that we are not terrorists and to expose the army’s vio­lence against us,” she told The Arab Weekly in an inter­view at her home.

Her videos, in which she talks about the plight of Palestinians as seen through a child’s eye, have gone viral on so­cial media.

Her mother, Nawal Tamimi, said her daughter was traumatised af­ter a young man in the village was shot dead by the Israeli army. “He was older than her but used to al­ways be friendly and nice to her so that she became attached to him. When she saw his blood on the ground, she became frantic,” Tamimi said.

Her then-6-year-old daughter approached Israeli soldiers ask­ing them, in English, why they killed her friend. “I miss him,” she shouted on a video, which is also popular on social media.

Going down a long staircase to Jana’s house, it is hard not to see the tension. Used tear-gas can­isters with flowers in them hang on metal bars as a decoration re­sembling the peaceful resistance the village supports. The house’s windows are covered with wire fencing to prevent gas bombs from entering.

The young girl told The Arab Weekly she used to jot down her feelings in a locked journal every night but then decided to turn to documenting her activities and emotions on video. She carried her mobile camera to Jerusalem and Ramallah talking about free­dom of prayers, arrests, suppres­sion of protests and Jewish settle­ments.

Jana is often seen leading dem­onstrations. Carrying the Palestin­ian flag and chanting anti-occu­pation slogans, protesters repeat after her in Arabic and English.

In her videos, she says Israeli attempts to suppress the protest will not dissuade people, but will inspire them to fight for libera­tion. “If we stop protesting, they will take the rest of the lands,” she explained.

However, Jana’s mother says the girl is sometimes afraid, “I don’t push her one way or the other. She’s free to decide if she wants to participate in the protest,” Tamimi told The Arab Weekly.

Getting ready for the Friday protest, Jana wrapped a black and white keffiyeh around her neck to cover her nose from a faint-causing gas as her mother asked her about her plans, “I don’t know, we’ll see,” she replied.

Bassem Tamimi, a leader of the popular resist­ance move­ment in Nabi Saleh and a distant relative of Jana’s, said his group was subject to criti­cism for allow­ing children to protest. He told The Arab Weekly that there is no safe place for children in the village in the first place.

“A tear-gas canister broke my daughter’s arm while she was sitting at home. We care more about our children than anybody else,” he said.

Instead of teaching children how to hide from their problems, he said, they should learn to con­front them.

Living in a conflict zone, Pal­estinian children have been subject to detention, collective punishment and human rights or­ganisations accuse Israel of violat­ing children’s rights, particularly the right to live.

Ayed Abu Eqtaish, account­ability programme director at the non-governmental organisation, Defence for Children Internation­al-Palestine (DCIP), told The Arab Weekly that 2014 was the most difficult year for Palestinian chil­dren.

DCIP documented the death of 560 Palestinian children in 2014, including 547 in Gaza in the 50-day war between Israel and the mili­tant parties last June. Eqtaish ac­cused Israel of violating concepts of proportionality and distinction by targeting civilians in militant areas and locations protected under international law, such as schools, hospitals and shelters.

In the West Bank, Eqtaish said 11 children were killed by Israeli army gunfire. “Investigation was not requested to be open, except for one case that was pushed by media footage and the sentence didn’t match the crime,” he added.

Hundreds of Palestinian chil­dren are subject to detention and solitary confinement as well as physical and psychological vio­lence. Eqtaish said 700 children were put on trial in Israeli military courts in 2014.

“Israel is the only state to pros­ecute children in military courts that lack basic standards of due process,” he added. Three-quar­ters of 107 children who were arrested said they were subject to physical violence when inter­viewed in 2014

Back in Nabi Saleh, Jana did not march with protesters on that Fri­day and was spotted wandering in nearby fields.

No report was made that day. Jana did not give any explanation why she was off.

“She’s only a child,” her mother said.

Small-Town Palestinians Are Fighting the Israeli Occupation With Their Cameras

By Sheren Khalel and Matthew Vickery June 24, 2014 | Vice News

Rani Burnat spends every Friday afternoon engulfed in tear gas. For the past nine years, his hometown of Bil’in, a small Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, has held weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation, and Burnat photographs the clashes from his battered wheelchair.

Friday protests in the West Bank are hardly unique to Bil’in. The village of Nabi Saleh protests against the seizure of its only water source by an illegal Israeli settlement nearby, while people in Kufr Qaddoum protest Israel’s blockade of its main road to the nearby city of Nablus. Like Bil’in, residents of the villages of Al-Walaja and Ni’lin protest against Israel’s separation wall, which runs through their land.

Media outlets don’t cover these protests, so people like Burnat have stepped in and taken on the role of citizen journalist for their communities. With no formal training, they document the struggles of their fellow villagers, filming and photographing clashes and posting what they record online.

“My hope is that we will become liberated and then we will throw all the cameras away,” Burnat tells VICE News. “But something tells me the occupation won’t end, and I will continue fighting through my camera.”

* * *

Burnat was part of the Palestinian resistance movement long before he started taking photos. On the first day of the second intifada in 2000, he was shot in the neck by an Israeli sniper while protesting the Israeli occupation on the streets of Ramallah.

“They declared me a martyr,” Burnat says. “The Palestinian media reported me as killed because my injuries were so bad that they assumed I would die. The next day, I was still alive and they moved me from the hospital in Ramallah to a hospital in Jordan. I spent six months in the Jordanian hospital, three of them in a coma.”

Burnat photographs a protester in Bil’in. Photo by Sheren Khalel

Burnat is now paralyzed from the chest down. He is confined to a wheelchair, has lost much of his ability to speak, and has normal motor function in only one hand. He wanted to continue participating in the resistance, but he needed to find another way to do it.

When Bil’in began its Friday protests, he found it.

“The army started to confiscate land and properties in Bil’in to begin building the separation wall,” he says. “It was then that I decided to be a photographer.”

His photography helped the village win a rare victory: After six years of demonstrating every Friday, Bil’in succeeded in changing the path of the wall, reclaiming half of the village’s land that had been taken. Protests continue in hopes of reclaiming the rest.

* * *

Burnat says he’s been shot with rubber-coated bullets and tear-gas canisters more than 10 times since he was confined to his wheelchair. Because he has no feeling from the chest down, he must check his body after every protest in case he’s been shot without realizing it.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), Palestinian journalists like Burnat are commonly targeted by soldiers, even though they often wear clothing identifying themselves as press.

“There is no question that Palestinian journalists are more at risk of arrest, harassment, or you name it than an international journalist,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior researcher at HRW. “And they are much more likely to be subjected to Israeli military law rather than civil law.”

Bilal Tamimi, a village journalist in Nabi Saleh, has experienced this first hand. Like his fellow journalists around the occupied West Bank, he is not accredited with any media organization, which means no company advocates on his behalf when he is arrested for filming soldiers — which is actually legal under Israeli law — and he and his family are responsible for posting bail and paying any fines or hospital bills that result from his work.

Tamimi says he’s been arrested four times, and has been beaten on several occasions. His family endures Israeli military raids in the middle of the night so often that his teenage children sleep with their shoes on.

“They target me with tear gas canisters and stun grenades, and many times they’ve pushed me and beat me to keep me away,” Tamimi says. “But of course I believe that what I am doing for the village here is very important and that I should stay close to [the soldiers] so I can document everything.”

Al-Qaddoumi covers protests in Kufr Qaddoum. Photo by Sheren Khalel

While Bil’in’s popular resistance got results, Tamimi’s village of Nabi Saleh has gotten attention. It’s been the focus of a New York Times Magazine story and the documentary Thank God It’s Friday, and it has hosted political figures from around the world.

Many in the town credit its notoriety to Tamimi and the small team of volunteers he has gathered under the umbrella of the Tamimi Press.

“Before in Nabi Saleh, if you googled us you would find just information on the prophet Saleh, because Nabi means prophet in Arabic,” Tamimi tells us. “But now if you google Nabi Saleh you will find millions and millions of films and reports, pictures, articles — everything.”

Tamimi Press regularly posts updates on its website and its Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts. It also sends updates to local news outlets and human rights organizations.

Tamimi Press is just incredible — they have an entire do-it-yourself news service that they created themselves to get information out,” Van Esveld tells VICE News. “They [village journalists] often have the first information on something that is going on, which is extremely important. They have access to witnesses, they have stories told direct from the ground, information that has not been filtered through spokespeople.”

In 2011, the small village of Kufr Qaddoum, nestled between hills in the north West Bank and surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements, was cut off from the city of Nablus — and the jobs it provided to many Kufr Qaddoum residents — when the Israeli army set up a blockade on the road out of the village. Residents protested, but there was almost no media coverage. Kamaal al-Qaddoumi was one of the villagers affected, and he found himself taking on the mantle of unofficial village photographer.

Just a typical Friday for Burnat. Photo by Sheren Khalel

“I started the same year the protests here started,” he says. “I noticed there was no media, nobody cared about what was happening in Kufr Qaddoum. So I started to take pictures and put them on the Internet to let people see.”

Like Burnat and Tamimi, Quddoumi believes his role is to show the world what’s happening in his small area of the occupied West Bank. But the men are more than just documentarians. For starters, footage village journalists shoot is frequently used in court to get Palestinian protestors released from detention after being wrongfully arrested. In addition, the presence of their cameras during clashes can often protect their fellow villagers from increased army backlash.

That’s one reason why the Israeli human rights group B’tselem launched its Camera Project to provide free cameras and advice to budding citizen journalists in the Occupied Territories. Tamimi, who was one of the project’s first recipients, says the presence of cameras in Nabi Saleh makes soldiers think twice about how much force they use.

“If they know that there will not be a punishment or that no one will know about what they are doing because there are no cameras, they will be very tough with the people, and they would be much worse at demonstrations — and all the time really,” Tamimi says.

While the Coalition for the Protection of Journalists tells VICE News that they consider Burnat, Tamimi, Qaddoumi and others like them journalists, all three seem torn between the identities of journalist and protestor. Tamimi proudly wears a high-visibility vest which, rather than having the word Press emblazoned on it, states: We will refuse to stay silent.

“Everybody has their own role in the resistance,” Quddoumi says. “Some people throw stones, some people take video, some people take pictures, some people help with medical things. What they do is for Palestine. Me taking pictures is like the same as another throwing stones.”

Palestinian women changing the resistance

 by Eleonora Gatto: Middle East Monitor: 7 February 2014

Palestinian women changing the resistance

On January 31 2014, the Popular Struggle Committees participants united as part of the “Melh Al-Ard” (salt of the Earth) campaign with the objective of revitalising the abandoned village of Ein Hiljeh in the Jordan Valley.

The choice of the location wasn’t random; it’s strongly connected to the political requests of the action: stop the on-going effects of the Occupation’s plan and reconfirm the Palestinian sovereignty over those territories in the Jordan Valley (Area C) that Israel want to annex with the assent of the negotiations carried out by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

More than 300 Palestinians from different villages of the West Bank gathered on the first day. An increased participation compared to that of 2013 in Bab Al-Shams, the Palestinian encampment erected on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where Israel wanted to build 35,000 housing units creating a corridor of settlements with the intent of fragmentising and isolating the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The transformation and appropriation of Palestinian land, implemented by Israel, doesn’t only aim to the establishment of the Zionist idea of “Greater Israel”, it also has a less visible agenda: the control of the Palestinian population and resources.

The Palestinians counteract by refusing the occupant’s authority, reclaiming the Palestinian sovereignty, denouncing the occupation in all its elements and looking for new forms of nonviolent popular struggle.

The aim is to create an alternative grassroots movement able to escape from corrupt government policies but with a national impact. Direct nonviolent actions as Ein Hijleh have a powerful resonance: they raise consciousness and use creative tension as a mean of bringing down an unjust system, replaced by a just and human one.

“Melh Al-Ard” (Salt of the Earth) refers to a phrase from the bible, Matthew 13:5: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

As the communication of the campaign states: “The sons and daughters of Ein Hijleh call upon our people to join the struggle to revive the village and protect our rights, history, culture and land. Daughters and sons of Palestine be the salt of this earth and stay steadfast on it.”

To this invitation, residents of Nabi Saleh responded by leaving their village, still involved in the weekly Friday demonstrations against the Israeli Occupation Forces, to head towards Ein Hijleh. Nabi Saleh is a small village of 500 inhabitants located near Ramallah and belonging to the Tamimi family.

An essential member of the Popular Struggle Committee, it’s one of the most active resistant villages in the West Bank. Positioned in area C, their struggle is against the illegal expansion of the Halamish settlement. In 2008 Ein Al-Qaws was taken over by the settlers, since then Nabi Saleh has been fighting against the Occupation system.

On Friday, Nabi Saleh’s inhabitants challenged the mobile checkpoints that were blocking the main roads to Ein Hijleh. After taking a secondary road and deceiving the Israeli police, they arrived triumphantly singing their way through the palms that surround the ruins of the old Canaanite village.

In the village of Nabi Saleh, the role of women is fundamental to the popular struggle. The commitment of women is recognised and supported because “they are the educators of the new generations. If women aren’t free nor will the new generations be”, Bassem Tamimi, recognised as Human Rights Defender by the EU, said.

Women are the driving force of the nonviolent movement in Nabi Saleh. Every Friday, while chanting slogans and proudly holding Palestinian flags, they daringly lead the march towards the tower at the entrance of the village or towards Ein Al-Qaws.

“Palestinian women are planting the seeds of resistance,” Manal Tamimi says. She explained that the women raise their children in a culture of resistance and they are teaching them not to be victims themselves but to react.

For this reason, despite the uncertainty and danger, the women of Nabi Saleh brought their children to Ein Hijleh. “We want them to learn the spirit of volunteering. It’s important for children to participate to these actions in order to grow aware of their role in the resistance,” Manal said.

Women and children of Nabi Saleh are well aware of how to act in case of raids from the army, they were born and raised under occupation and they’ve had to deal with it daily.

“Let them come. The army comes everyday to my house stepping on my land,” Rouan Tamimi said. Women also join these events to help deter the use of excessive violence towards the activists.

It is pivotal to involve children and women in the construction of the foundations of society in order to assure an inclusive community. The strength of the nonviolent movement is the equality of responsibility, regardless of affiliation, gender or social class. Anyone can give their contribution to the struggle.

The author is a Servizio Civile Internazionale Italia (SCI) volunteer with a Master’s degree in International Cooperation. She is currently living in Nabi Saleh and reporting about the Popular Struggle.

Hundreds celebrate, vow to strengthen Palestinian popular struggle at conference in Nabi Saleh

Palestinian popular committees hold a convention in Nabi Saleh in bid to promote and unite the popular struggle against occupation and apartheid, launching a new type of weekly protest. The demonstration that followed was welcomed by soldiers with the traditional tear gas barrage.

Hundreds gather in Nabi Saleh to commemorate martyrs and the start of the First Intifada, November 7, 2013. (Photo: Haggai Matar)

The popular committees coordinating much of the unarmed struggle against the wall and settlements in the West Bank started a new campaign on Saturday. In addition to the weekly Friday protests in Bil’in, Ni’ilin, Nabi Saleh, al-Ma’asara, Qaddum and other places, each of which focuses on local issues, activists are now planning to hold a central gathering and protest in one of the villages once a month on Saturdays. These gatherings, organized also with Israeli activists (myself included) are meant to solidify existing forces and enhance them in order to promote the culture, tradition and tools of popular resistance.

The first event of this kind took place Saturday in Nabi Saleh. It was a symbolic date: 26 years since the beginning of First Intifada, which many in the movement see as a point of reference, four years since the start of demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, and two years since the killing of Mustafa Tamimi at a demonstration. Coincidentally, all in the same week, the IDF also decided to close the case against Tamimi’s killer, and supporter of the struggle Nelson Mandela passed away.

Palestinian, Israeli and international activists confront Israeli soldiers in Nabi Saleh, December 7, 2013. Some protestors made it near the army tower. Three were detained and later released. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

Some 300 Palestinian and Israeli activists, with a few internationals as well, gathered at the village center at noon. Speeches were given in memory of the martyrs and about the lessons of the First Intifada. Speakers also linked the West Bank protests to those against the Prawer Plan and to the jailing of Druze conscientious objector Omar Sa’ad earlier in the week. The small convention was closed with a dance put on by Nabi Saleh youth, followed by a march toward the army tower at the entrance to the village.

As soon as the tower was in sight, and with no provocation whatsoever, demonstrators were bombarded with tear gas canisters and scattered in an attempt to seek shelter. It took some while before the protest reorganized into two groups: one of local youth throwing stones at soldiers from an open field, the other composed of demonstrators marching toward the tower once again.

Palestinian youth look for stones to throw at the Israeli army in Nabi Saleh, December 7, 2013. (Photo: Keren Manor/Activestills.org)

As the soldiers were preoccupied with stone throwers, shooting tear gas and rubber coated bullets at them, breaking the jaw of Mustafa Tamimi’s brother and chasing them into the village, the other group of demonstrators made it to the tower. Three were immediately detained and later released; the others were warned to leave. After a while demonstrators moved on to block the army jeeps that were now trying to exit the village after chasing stone throwers. The soldiers used force to clear the road. At the end of the protest another attempt was made to reach Nabi Saleh’s spring, which has been taken over by the nearby settlement of Halamish, and that too led to an army attack and storming on the village.

Activists blocking army jeeps were forcefully evicted (Activestills)

Activists attempting blocking army jeeps are forcefully removed. (Activestills)

The event ended after about five hours with one person hospitalized. Later, news came in that elsewhere in the West Bank soldiers killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy by shooting him in the back.