To mark 43 years of Israeli occupation, Israelis and Palestinians held protests throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories this weekend. While many of these protests were planned in advance, many organizers and the IDF did not know what to expect since the Gaza Flotilla Raid has heightened emotions across all sects of Israeli and Palestinian society — Arab, Jewish, left and right etc.
Saturday, June 5th 2010
15,000 – 20,000 left-wing people peacefully protested the Israeli occupation and the “Gaza Flotilla Raid” in Tel Aviv (notice how the name of the Wikipedia article has now changed from “Gaza Flotilla Crash” to “Gaza Flotilla Raid”). They were also joined by 200 – 300 right-wing people who came to oppose the left-wing protesters and support the occupation.
The number of protesters surprised many of the protest’s organizers who estimated that no more than 3,000 people would attend. “I thought that because of the flotilla incident that moderate leftists would not turn out, but I was very surprised,” said one of the organizers, Itamar Broaderson. “Instead, because of the flotilla more people came.”
While the protest is held annually to mark the beginning of Israel’s occupation, when the Gaza Flotilla Raid happened, the organizers changed the title of the protest from “Protest Against 43 Years of Occupation” to “The government cannot sink us. We will continue rowing for peace.”
Several right-wing protesters spit on left-wing protesters and one person threw a smoke grenade. At the end of the protest, right-wing protesters attacked 81 year old leftist activist Uri Avneri, the head of Gush Shalom, and the police had to escort Avneri to his car.
Friday, June 5, 2010
Nebi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories
I went to Nebi Saleh with photojournalists Mati Milstein, Ben Kelmer and blogger Lisa Goldman. Seasoned blogger Noam Sheizaf was also there and I liked the way that he summed up the history of the village in his post about a series of demonstrations yesterday:
The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.
The weekly protest began with young village members blocking the main road into the village where the IDF enters with stones and lighting tires on fire. Less than five minutes later, the IDF arrived and closed the road for several hours.
The villagers (accompanied by no more than ten young international activists) marched down the hill slowly and cautiously and eventually exchanged stone throwing for tear gas.
Other than the journalists, Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir was the only person who came from the villagers’ protest to speak with the army. After several minutes of shouting passionately at the army to leave the village, Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier with a racial slur (see pictures below).
When the IDF was shooting tear gas, more than one canister landed in a nearby house. After the tear gas exploded, a woman came out of the house and gagged repeatedly on top of the roof. There was no damage to the house, since the window was already broken from similar incidents.
I spoke with one of the village leader who along with his wife, who serves as a medic, monitor the young village protesters. He explained to me a bit of the village history = 1 family, 400 people and a culture of resistance. I took some pictures of the resistance art they’ve made and several of the women and children who stand on their porches weekly for the past six months protesting the settlers take over of their spring (see below). He also told me that the night before, three young villagers had been arrested in the middle of the night, after last week’s protests.
At the top of the hill in a small community building, several middle aged men debated their protest strategy hotly. They decided to call the protest off for the day because they said a woman in Gaza had been killed. Photojournalist Mati Milstein informed the IDF of their decision, resolving the conflict for the day.
Hundreds also marked 43 years of occupation on highway 443 where demonstrators protest Palestinians’ limited access to the highway which runs through the west bank.
Tab for the Day:
This reporting took over 8 hours of work plus food and fuel. I rode in a car, which I cannot afford, shot pictures on a $1,000 camera and wrote this story on a $2,000 computer. Please do your part to support independent journalism in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.