“I am Al Walajeh” Photography Exhibition Opens at Dar Kalima

“I am Al Walajeh” a part of the “Image and Identity” Arts Advocacy project I started in 2011, opened Wednesday, July 11th at Dar Kalima College in Bethlehem to over 120 attendees. The project teaches Palestinian youth how to creatively articulate local culture, history, identity and space using images.

The Al Walajeh’s youth’s images are expressly vacant and removed. They tell a story of a once thriving agricultural community, slowly turned into refugees and pushed from their land. They also tell the story of the challenge of photographing Al Walajeh, whose land is occupied by several settlements, the Apartheid Wall and Israeli soldiers constantly on patrol. Since most Al Walajeh’s population travels outside for work, the children struggled to find people to photograph in their homes and village.

This project was made possible by the following organizations and individuals:

“I am Al Walajeh”

  • Producer – Alison Ramer
  • Assistant Producers – Ahmad Shihadeh and E.M.
  • Filmmaker – Hamoudi Shehada
  • Photographer – Stephen Jeter
  • Curatorial – Nancy Salsa Taweel

New State of Palestine VISA

I am the proud carrier of a new “State of Palestine” VISA. No, I am not proud that we have IDs that must be stamped at all. In fact, if this conflict has taught me anything, it is that it is part of my duty as a human being to make those “borders” less powerful. To create a world where gender, religion and national identities are no longer life threatening issues, where being a human being is enough to guarantee your human rights.

But in the meantime, I’m going to use my American and Israeli passports to advocate for human rights by stamping them with a new State of Palestine VISA, issued by Ramallah based artists Khaled Jarrar. Even though 100 states recognize the State of Palestine, the PA does not issue a VISA. What does that say about their thinking? Who is more powerful — 100 states or the Israeli occupiers?

I don’t know why the PA hasn’t issued VISAs. But I do know why I am going to be carrying one:

At conception, I was given two identities: human being and female — not woman. When I emerged from my mother’s womb, my parent’s gave me a gendered name and the state gave me a national identity. I was raised as a Jew and at thirteen, given the choice to be in or out. I chose to be in, had a party (Bat Mitzvah) and joined the Jew Crew for life — or so they say.

By 21, this Jewish identity ran into Zionism — and a Zionist narrative that uses the horrors of Jewish genocide and the power of Judaism to mobilize Jewish people for a nationalist cause. As a result of my Birthright journey, I became the Zionist dream, used the racist Right of Return for Jewish people and became an Israeli citizen. Boy, Jews can be stupid sometimes.

But if I’m a little easier on myself, in some respects it was a practical, adolescent decision. I was empowered by the Zionist narrative which took me out of the Jewish minority in America and placed me in the Jewish majority in Israel. I wanted to further explore my American relationship with Israel, a state which receives more American military aid than any other nation and which claims to be representing the Jewish people. The Israeli government made this easy by offering cash, subsidies, tax breaks and other privileges – Jewish organizations also chipped in and offer to fly and ship a bunch of your worldly belongings at no cost to the “Jewish Homeland”. And so, in the land where national identity, ID cards and passports are life or death issues, I naively became an Israeli citizen.

After living for three years in Tel Aviv, enjoying the beach, boys and booze,  my bubble was burst by the Israeli War in (and on) Gaza (2009) and I felt a need to see another face of Israel. I became a border crosser, leaving the seemingly occupation free Tel Aviv for more thorny territories (Israeli soldiers, walls and checkpoints–Oh my!), and lived behind the wall in Palestinian villages — Nabi Saleh (Ramallah) and Beit Ummar (Hebron), Beit Jalla (Bethlehem) and Al – Ram (Al – Quds or Jerusalem). Over the course of two years, I  lived with Palestinian families and engaged Palestinian officials and taxi drivers, artists and accountants to see Israel from their’ eyes.

Rarely was there a day when someone carrying a machine gun didn’t require me to show him or her my ID. “Where are you going? What do you do there? Where are you from?”, all common questions along the journey which determine your fate. But more powerful than the words you say, the disposition you hold or the attitude you carry, was my ID.

To my surprise, my Israeli ID is the easiest to move with. Like all IDs, it provokes questions. When I spoke Hebrew or English to the soldiers, they asked me if I was Jewish. When I started to speak Arabic to them, I got a lot less questions — in fact, life was easier, for this cute, secular dressing girl. Other girl friends of mine, who look more Arab and cover their hair, have a much harder time and boys — well they have it the worst.

Over the past two years, my American passport has become increasingly difficult to move with, since I no longer carry a VISA. A year ago, soldiers would just wave me through — it seemed to be a courtesy to tourists. Now, foreigners enjoy heavier harassment as the Israeli government attempts to intimidate international activists. Deportation of human rights activists has become common place and as a result elaborate schemes have been devised to visit Palestine, even if activists will never go to 1967 Israeli territory.

As a Jewish Israeli citizen, it is illegal for me to enter what was deemed by the Oslo Accords as Area A — all of the cities in the Palestinian territories. If I am arrested by the Israeli Occupation Forces, I can face thousands of dollars in fines and possibly jail time. However, I can move about Area B and C freely — areas that are still under Israeli military control, but were supposed to transition into full Palestinian control within five years. This freedom has enabled settlers to colonize the West Bank and so — in these areas settlers and Palestinians live side by side.

My Israeli passport is by far the easiest to move with since it doesn’t have any indication of my Jewish identity on it.  My Israeli ID on the other hand, has my mother’s Hebrew name on it. In the recent past, the IDs used to explicitly state your religion, while today the identification is more discreet. Of course, this doesn’t stop soldiers from asking questions about my identity and in protest, I answer the question “Are you Jewish?” by telling them that I’m Christian, Muslim and Jewish. Granted that this harassment is nothing compared to what Palestinians  carrying green Palestinian or blue Israeli IDs (Israeli – Arabs) experience, it touches on how powerful an ID is here in a place no larger than New Jersey.

Aside from daily harassment and intimidation, many people face incredibly difficult life-long struggles to stay in their homeland, where they were born, or to return to the land of their parent’s and grandparents. IDs become a weapon which the Israeli government uses to deem who is in and who is out. And of course, this isn’t some haphazard plan — it is an incredibly systematic way to displace Palestinians, win the “demographic dilemma” and to construct the Zionist myth that Israel was “a land without a people, for a people without a land”.

Since I have the inhumane and unwarranted privilege of crossing checkpoints daily, my ID has become one of the most essential objects I carry daily. When Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar approached me (in Ramallah) with his “State of Palestine” VISA and invited me to stamp my passport I was ecstatic. It enables me to make fun of the current border control system and to create contradictions that the official system doesn’t have a protocol for — yet.  His project provides me with a new tool for protesting the Israeli occupation and an outlet for freedom of expression that was unavailable before.

Luckily, I had the perfect place for the stamp — directly above my Israeli immigration ID, which the Israeli Ministry of Interior put in my American passport. Even though many of my Palestinian friends also carry two passports, due to their green ID registration, the Israeli Occupation Forces will not let them pass the wall into many Palestinian cities (most notably Al Quds / Jerusalem).

American passport with “State of Palestine” VISA (top, left) above Israeli immigration document

Next week I will have my Israeli passport stamped and will be leaving and entering Israel with the State of Palestine VISA in June. Additionally, I will be publishing the numerous stories that I am sure will be prompted by this eloquent project here.

If you would like to have your passport stamped or be involved with the project on other levels, please contact Khaled Jarrar. Additionally, you can support the project by liking the facebook page, “Live and work in Palestine” (which in 24 hours got 500 likes!) and add the State of Palestine VISA to your profile pictures.

Now writing for PolicyMic

I’m excited to announce that I will now be writing for PolicyMic, “an online political platform that promotes high-quality political discussion amongst young thinkers.” PolicyMic is still in beta, but I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen so far. You can check out my article “Netenyahu Institutionalizes Settlers’ Price Tagging Policy” on the site or read PolicyMic’s brochure here.

Since it’s March 15th, the day of Palestinian Unity, I also want to call attention to Fadi Quran’s article, which was published on PolicyMic last week, “On Shuhada Street, a Non-Violent Rap Global Revolution in Palestine?“. Fadi and others have been working to bring the democratic revolution to Palestine — calling for unity and an end to the occupation — and I wanted to wish them, and all the Palestinian youth, the best today.

The Palestine Papers and the Road “Home”

With The Palestine Papers on my mind, I start my journey “home” from “work” in al-Ram, on the other side of the separation wall. I climb on the Palestinian taxi and we drive along the road lined with grim realities on both side; to the left massive concrete blocks and agonizing graffiti block our view, on the right ghostly shops ravaged by the separation wall’s presence stand counting the days.

Picture of the wall in Al-Ram before it was sealed off from the rest of Occupied Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Newsifact.com

Qalandia checkpoint—I get off the bus, press past children selling black market goods for a quarter or two, squeeze between the metal human corrals and gates built by Jews, x-ray myself and my bags with Tel Aviv technology and prove that I’m a “legal” human being to teenagers with M16s.

Once validated, I escape to the safety of a Palestinian bus with Israeli license plates. I pay my ticket fare to the “Arab-Israeli” driver, slip on my headphones and try to disappear into Fairuz. We start making our way towards Jerusalem, past the same concrete blocks that cast shadows on the other side–on this side the wall is empty and silent. Passengers divert their gaze as we make our way past the Israeli checkpoint guarding the illegal Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, the new light rail cutting through occupied East Jerusalem, the demolished Shephard Hotel in Sheik Jarrah… until we reach Damascus gate.

Now at the junction, waiting for a green light at the cross walk where settlers and Palestinians freeze, up the hill across the former green line, huffing and puffing I make it to the Israeli Interrogation Center a block from my house. I pull out the keys to my tiny apartment on Yaffa Street kiss them unconsciously and drag them across the iron prison fence. Past the coffee shop packed with American-Jews drinking cocoa, into the alley lined with Jerusalem’s best bars and up the stairs to apartment 18.

Here, the road “home” is never easy.

Riot Material

Its two days into the new year and my heart is aching–well perhaps screaming.

Saturday, after a demonstration of nearly a thousand people in Bi’lin, we lost Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, who died from the inhalation of tear gas fired by IDF soldiers outside the Occupied Palestinian West Bank village of Bil’in. In response, hundreds of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and a group of activists returned the American manufactured weapons used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the American embassador.

Then, this morning, Israel bombed Gaza and Israeli soldiers killed a 21 year old Palestinian in cold blood at a checkpoint outside of Nablus (no longer a story on the front page of Haaretz or Ynet). When I walked into work, this was the first thing my colleague mentioned–not happy new year. It didn’t leave my mind all day and now, in the evening, in Jerusalem, I’m distressed at how few Israelis are aware of this atrocity. I’m going to try to not take too much out on my neighbor, who last night told me that I shouldn’t be upset about the Gaza War because “Israel is the most moral army in the world.”

This is the post that I wrote about the Gaza War that I’m still waiting to be approved by Huffington Post and a call from Gaza Youth that I’m republishing in solidarity. If most of the human rights activists in Israel weren’t exahusted from the weekend or sitting in jail, I’d be looking for the nearest riot to attend.


A Former Supporter of the Gaza War Reflects, in Shame

 

It was two years ago, when Israel launched the Gaza War, or “Operation Cast Lead” as the Israeli military calls it, that I had an Israeli experience Birthright didn’t prepare me for–trauma. Even though I was a peace activist my whole life–organizing demonstrations against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at age sixteen–during the Gaza war, like many in the Israeli peace camp, I became pro-war.

Boxed up in my tiny Tel Aviv apartment, I struggled to understand how my life could go on as normal while blood was running through the streets of Gaza,  just one hour away. For hours I glued myself to the news via television, radio and internet — looking for a way to touch the trauma, to become a victim of the war machine. The IDF warned, that for the first time ever, Hamas missiles could reach Tel Aviv — I cursed my south Tel Aviv apartment and wondered why I didn’t pay higher rent to live up north. At any moment, a missile could land on our house and we would be like the Israelis in Sderot, suffering from shock, shrapnel wounds and property loss — thank G-d I was renting.

A few days after the war started, I had to go out of the house. I had to go to this office and that office, pay this and that bill. I had to, as many of my Israeli friends said, “go on with my life.” But the war wouldn’t let me go — there was no normal life to be had. In every car and shop, the radio and television blared with images of army generals and angry journalists, who were locked out of Gaza and could only stand on hill tops overlooking plumbs of smoke. Every once in a while, we caught a glimpse of a mother lying over the body of her child. A father standing in front of his demolished house — the coffin of his family. In every office I visited, a distraught family member sat behind a desk on the telephone speaking to her or his loved one, who was putting on his uniform and heading to war. The city was suddenly filled with soldiers, carrying heavy bags on their backs and expressions on their faces. The Tel Aviv bubble had been penetrated.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

When I returned home, I closed the big medal door on my bedroom window, which doubled as a bomb shelter. I posted myself in front of the television, keyboard on my lap and started writing. Many of my posts (which I removed later) reached levels of deep distress and hysteria. A few of my Israeli and American friends tried to  help me break through the fear and see how cruel and inhumane “Operation Cast Lead” was — I couldn’t hear a damn thing.

Months later, when I returned to the United States, I started to recognize how absurd my state of mind had become. When a military plane crossed over my college campus, I thought it was Iran. When students brought up the war, I accused them of being anti-Semitic.  And most notably, at my graduation ceremony, in a crowded auditorium I heard someone speaking Arabic and I immediately thought I was going to be the next victim of a terrorist attack. I was traumatized.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

This mild experience of the war, for someone so new to Israel — at home, safe in Tel Aviv — just touches on how manipulative fear is. For Jews (Israeli and non-Israeli alike), whose identity is so deeply defined by fear of the “other” — from the stories of Purim and Chanukah warning against assimilation, to historical tragedies like the Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms and the Holocaust — our fear continues to serve as a justification for brutal retaliation. Rest assured, we were victims. But wake up, we aren’t any longer.

When I returned to Israel, I started looking for a way to keep my fear in check. I looked for a community that could weather the war storms and not let fear flood us with nationalistic tendencies where we forget what “nation” we’re really apart of, the human one. During the Gaza flotilla raid, an event which only posed danger to Israel’s reputation, I became critical of how quickly journalists picked provocative language and published round-ups and articles, like “‘Lynch,’ ‘Attack’ and ‘Massacre’ – Shooting Down Words in International Waters,” to try to de escalate the fear and nationalistic tendencies that were rising. These posts connected me to a group of thoughtful journalists, most notably two Israeli photojournalists and former soldiers, who travelled regularly to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). They invited me to join them in Nabi Saleh, and slowly I started a journey of recognizing and breaking down my fear of the “other.”

This journey included living in the OPT for six months. During this time, the people that I formerly only saw in the media as “terrorists” vanished. Not because Israel’s endless “security” measures have repressed them, because the security fence has stopped them or all terror cells have been cleaned out — but simply because today 99.9% of Palestinians do not believe that terrorism is the way to freedom.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

But what about that 0.01%? The dozens of families that I came to know from Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin all had one striking thing in common: at least one or more of their family members was killed or imprisoned by the IDF. There is strong evidence that most “terrorists” have a prior history of violent encounters with the IDF that resulted in an immediate family member being killed or in some cases the attacker her/himself being injured or arrested (see statistical analysis here). And yet, even though Israel continues to collectively punish the entire Palestinian population for the violence of a few, Palestinians recognize something the Israeli government and most American-Jews do not yet understand — violence breeds violence and war will never lead to peace and security.

Now, two years after I shamefully supported the War in Gaza, the murder of 1400 people who have every right to hate and desire revenge, I am sure that I know who the terrorists were and who supported them–it was my democratically elected government, it was my military and it was me. Gaza, I am so sorry. You should not forgive me, or us, but perhaps if I work for your freedom, one day we will be able to reconcile. Until then, all my love.

Gaza’s Youth Manifesto for Change

I was inspired by this post that I found on facebook today. Its inspiring, especially considering that Israel bombed Gaza again today, during the two year anniversary of the Gaza War.

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30th November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization (www.sharek.ps) with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect.  We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: freegazayouth@hotmail.com

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.

FREE GAZA YOUTH!

Photo Essay: West Bank Village, Nabi Saleh, Celebrates One Year of Popular Struggle

Last weekend I attended the one year celebration of the Popular Struggle in Nabi Saleh. Palestinians, Israelis and internationals joined together to celebrate one year of unarmed resistance by planting over 500 olive trees in the valley between the village and the settlement.

One year ago, the settlers, who already have built their homes on the villagers’ land, went outside of their settlement and stole one of two fresh water springs in the area by building around the spring and posting a sign dedicating it to a member of the settlement. In response, the villagers marched to the spring to reclaim it when a clash erupted between the villagers and the settlers. The settlers throwing stones at the Palestinians, and the Palestinians responding by burning part of the structure the settlers built around the spring (video here).

Since this initial incident, the villagers of Nabi Saleh, a tiny village outside of Ramallah, joined the Popular Struggle and started demonstrating weekly to try and reach the spring and reclaim their land. These weekly unarmed demonstrations have resulted in violent repression by the Israeli Army, dozens of people injured and imprisoned. There are weekly night raids by the Israeli Army in the village and several housing demolition orders have been issued over the course of the past year.

During the week, when the Palestinians can reach the spring by car, after five minutes of being at the spring, the Israeli Army comes from the base inside the Israeli settlement and forces them off the land. On the other hand, the Israeli Army consistently protects the settlers while they picnic and swim in the spring and has protected them as they expanded the settlement by planting trees on stolen land.

Palestinians West Bank Alison Ramer

Brothers from a Palestinian village spend a moment pining over their stolen land, one year after Israeli settlers stole their spring and expanded their settlement.

Alison Ramer Journalist Israel / Palestine

Palestinian children from Nabi Saleh cast shadows over images of the past year's struggle

Bassam Tamimi, a leader of the Popular Struggle in Nabi Saleh, addresses the crowd of 300 before leaving the center of the village for the farm lands across from the spring that was stolen by the settlers one year ago.

For the first time in fourteen years, a female Israeli activist joins the Palestinians in direct action.

One carries the roots of tomorrow, the other picks up the rootless rubbish of yesterday.

300 Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators descend on the valley between the Palestinian village and the settlement, which is located on their land.

Palestinians descend on their land between their village and the Israeli settlement.

Palestinian youth plants trees on the valley between his village and the Israeli settlement which is located on the village's land.

Israeli settlers and soldiers stand at the edge of the spring, looking at the Palestinians, Israeli and internationals planting olive trees below.

This land is my land.

A Palestinian mother and her son patrol past an Israeli soldier with a B'Tselem camera.

Over 300 Palestinians, Israelis and internationals plant olive trees in the valley between the Palestinian village, Nabi Saleh, and the settlement, Halamish.

The Palestinian Authority's Minister of Settlement and Wall Watch, Maher Ghnaim, plants a tree with Bassam Tamimi, leader of the popular struggle in Nabi Saleh, and other local leaders.

Members of the Palestinian Authority and the Minister Against the Wall and Settlements stand for the Palestinian national anthem.

A Palestinian freedom fighter attends the one year celebration of Popular Struggle in Nabi Saleh weeks after his leg was shattered in nine places by a Israeli tear gas missile.

An Israeli soldier takes a nap while occupying the Palestinians' spring.

After the Israeli Army turns the spring into a closed military zone, the army protects Israeli settlers, as they watch Israeli human rights activists leave the Palestinian's stolen spring.

Twenty-Three Injured and House Occupied in Weekly Demonstration in Nabi Saleh

Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories — This week the Israeli Army and the Border Police invaded Nabi Saleh and violently tried to repress Palestinian and international civilians who demonstrate weekly against the confiscation of their land by the nearby settlement, Halamish. According to Palestinian sources from the village, twenty-three people were injured, five members of the village taken to the hospital and three of them stayed in the hospital over night. Two soldiers were also injured when they were hit by stones (4:28).

The Israeli Army invaded the village before the afternoon prayer and demonstration began. While international supporters were gathering in Bassam Tamimi’s house, one of the leader’s of the Popular Struggle, the Israeli Army started to surround the house. “I was outside hanging laundrey when the soldiers started surrounding my house. I started shouting at them to go away when one of them came up to me and sprayed pepper spray right in my face,” said Nariman Tamimi.

Since the Israeli Army was surrounding the house and had occupied the main intersection, the international supporters and several leaders of the Popular Struggle could not reach the tree at the top of the village where the rest of the demonstrators were gathering. As they left the house, the Israeli Army — joined by the Border Police — started firing tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and plastic covered steel bullets directly at demontrators.

Once some of the demonstrators reached the road to the spring, Naji Tamimi sat down in the road to non-violently object to the Isreali Army. As you can see in this video, one of the soldiers thew tear gas directly at Naji (00:48). A few minutes later, after he attempts to speak with the soldiers and returns with a few supporters to sit peacefully in the road, a Border Police officer comes up and sprays him directly in the face with pepper spray (3:00).

Later in the demonstration, after demonstrators started throwing stones, a soldier was injured by a stone that hit his face (4:28). Like demonstrators, soldiers also were injured by tear gas inhilation (5:30) before they occupied a house (the same house that the occupied the week before) in order to shoot tear gas and bullets from a high point in the village (6:07).

This week the Tamimi Press continued to send out press releases and photographs from the demonstration. You can view the album that they published on facebook here.

The Non-Violent Movement in Palestine Gains Strength

On Saturday, we took our dream of a World Peace Day in Palestine from the sky to the ground and saw months of our hard work come to life in the Palestinian village, Nabi Saleh. It wasn’t easy, but in the end – we made it.

Even though the Israeli army attempted to break down the event by putting dozens of checkpoints on the roads to Nabi Saleh, closing all of Ramallah, every entry into the village, several Palestinian, Israeli and international supporters (who were told by Israeli soldiers that they were not allowed to enter the village) trekked through the mountains on foot to get to the Peace Day. One group, students from Birzeit University, were met by Israeli soldiers as they neared the village and detained in the school for most of the day (see photos here).

However, the villagers and Israeli and international activists didn’t let the army’s presence distract them from the Peace Day events and continued as planned to clean the streets of trash, gather under the Peace Tent we erected and demonstrate non-violently against the occupation and for their freedom.

In the opening ceremony, Bassam Tamimi, one of the local leaders from Nabi Saleh, read a call from a woman in the village who has lost half of her family to the Israeli occupation and whose son has been in prison for the past seventeen years. She called for the Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit to be released. Several other leaders, including Ali Abu Awwad, a leader of the Palestinian Non-Violent Movement, gave speeches in the Peace Tent.

After the opening ceremony in the Peace Tent, we went to Nabi Saleh’s cultural center to view the exhibition of photographs from the past ten months of demonstrations in the village. Then we marched to the school where the students were being held and non-violently broke the army blockade by linking arms and slowly but surely marching forward. In response, the army released the students and started arresting Israeli activists. In solidarity several internationals and Palestinians piled on top of the Israeli activists protecting them from the army, even though the army threatened to arrest everyone present. In the end, five people were arrested and taken to the army’s base in Halamish, the nearby settlement, and held until ten o’clock at night.


More photographs of non-violent resistance throughout the day.

Continuing on, we marched through the village to the junction where every Friday demonstrators are confronted with the Israeli army as they try to reach the spring. We faced several jeeps and armed soldiers, and holding the sign which we planned to erect at the spring, staged a sit-in and song songs of peace and freedom. After thirty minutes, we turned our backs on the army and returned to the Peace Tent where we resisted with pleasure and enjoyed an evening of inspirational music and Debka, traditional Palestinian dance, together.

Even though we attempted to get financial support prior to the event, we only received a small amount of money from a Palestinian organization and Israeli activists, who paid for their own transportation. However, this event cost much more and in order to make it happen, we took out a loan – “I have become a slave for my own dream,” Ali Abu Awwad said. If you are willing to support this day and make a donation, please contact us.

Currently, we are busy preparing for a trip to the United States and the UK in order to gain international support for the Palestinian Non-Violent Movement (October – November). If you are willing to organize an event in the United States or the UK, please contact us. We would be happy to come share our stories, strategy and vision for the future of Palestine and invite you to become part of our movement.

Lastly, at the bottom of this post is an incredibly sensitive and inspirational account from one of the Israeli activists who came to support us. We truly are so honored to have Israeli and international support in this struggle and know that we need your support to end the occupation and make our way to freedom.

Personal Account of World Peace Day in An-Nabi Salih

by David Shulman

Something new is happening in Palestine. I saw and heard things today that are relatively rare in my experience. I saw conflict erupt in the village between those who wanted to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers and generate more violence, as in the past, and the no less passionate people who intervened fiercely to prevent this from happening. I heard tough words of peace and hope. I saw the most dignified and brave demonstration I’ve ever seen. I also saw the army react with its usual foolishness,
which I’ll describe, and I saw the soldiers hold back when they could easily have started shooting. It wasn’t an easy day by any means, but it was good.

An-Nabi Salih is a hard place. When Ezra heard me say yesterday, in Sheikh Jarrah, that I was going to the village, he said, “Take a helmet. They’re violent there–all of them” (he meant: settlers, soldiers, and villagers). Yesterday, at the usual Friday demonstration in the village, the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition along with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas and stun grenades. I was expecting more of the same today.

The village, north and west of Ramallah, has the great misfortune of having the hard-core settlement of Halamish as its unwanted neighbor. An-Nabi Salih lost its lands to the settlement along with access to a fresh-water spring, a precious thing in this arid, sun-scorched landscape; the settlers stole the spring, but the villagers were not prepared to surrender it, so there have been many violent clashes, spread over years. The settlers do whatever they can to make the villagers’ life miserable, with much success, and the soldiers, as always, back them up. All this is standard practice.

Today in honor of World Peace Day, Ali Abu Awwad one of the leaders of the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance, and local leaders from Nabi Saleh planned a “Day of Social Action and Resistance to the Occupation” in Nabi Saleh. Hundreds of Palestinian activists were supposed to arrive from all over the West Bank—but the army turned all the buses away and closed all the roads connecting the village to the rest of the West Bank. We run into the same roadblocks at the main turn-off from Highway 60. The soldiers laugh at us when we tell them we’re going to Nabi Salih. No chance, they say, of getting through. But this is the West Bank, and there is always a way, maybe not an easy way, but some back road or goat track or dirt path that will get you where you’re going; so we wind our way for close to two hours, through Jiljiliya and other quite lovely villages close to Ramallah until we fetch up at Qarawat Bani Zeid, close to our goal. But there is, we know from Ali and Alison, an American-Israeli writer, another army roadblock at the entrance to the village. The Tel Aviv contingent tried to get past them by running a few hundred yards over the hills, and several of the activists were caught and arrested. Do we want to attempt the same tactic?

At least some of us may get through, but we hesitate: is it worth the hassle of the arrests and the violence? On the other hand, having come so far, how can we simply turn back? Seven of us are prepared to run the gauntlet. Finally, at high noon, Ali leads us down into the rocky terraces and olive groves underneath An-Nabi Salih. Leaping over the rocky ledges, we descend to a level that is hopefully beyond the soldiers’ range of vision, and for twenty minutes or so we creep stealthily from tree to tree and rock to rock, in near-total silence, playing hide-and-seek, outflanking them, crouching, holding our breath, hoping to emerge far enough past the roadblock to elude capture. It’s very hot, and I’m thirsty and, by the end, physically depleted; it’s been 33 years, I calculate, since I last engaged in such games, in my Basic Training in the army. So absorbed am I in the trek that I hardly take in the splendor of the hills rolling dizzily toward the horizon, but at one point I do see, just above my head, an olive branch laden with green fruit almost exploding with ripeness. Soon autumn will come, and the olive harvest; on the way in the minibus, bouncing over the back roads, there was even a sweet moment of rain, with the sharp smell, unlike all others, of wet dust settling to the ground.

There are eleven of us: seven Ta’ayush volunteers, two Palestinian women in modern dress, heads covered, from Beit Ummar, Alison and Ali himself, tall, graceful, careful, prescient. At one point we almost make a bad mistake, start climbing up too soon, too close to the soldiers; but Ali catches this in time and leads us back down through the trees and brambles. When we do move up to the road, we find ourselves very much inside the village, welcomed warmly by two elderly gentlemen, who come to shake my hand, and then by a contingent of teenagers. The first thing I see is a huge sign, in Arabic and English: “The children of this land deserve our struggle and sacrifices for peace.” Fifteen yards down the main street, another one: “We believe in non-violence, do you? We are making social change, are you?” A few yards further along: “La salam ma’a wujud al-ihtilal, Making peace means ending the occupation.” Biggest of all, draped over the entrance to the town meeting place: “Keeping our political prisoners behind the bars of tyranny and injustice is inexcusable on International Peace Day.”

Do I believe in non-violent struggle? Yes, with all my heart. And I see that I’m not alone—indeed, far from it. We sit at first, re-hydrating, under the enormous tree in the village square, just like in India. Our hosts serve us Turkish coffee and mineral water. We make some friends. One of the village elders says to me with irony (remember yesterday’s live ammunition): “Welcome to Eden.” Actually, though, he
just might be right. The heat intensifies. Eventually, inevitably, it is time for the speeches. Popular Arabic music is blaring at deafening volume from the loudspeakers as we take our seats under a wide canvas. It goes on and on, until, mercifully, a young poet takes the microphone and recites a poem. A passage from the Qur’an is sung. The poet introduces the speakers one by one. I’m weary and, at first, a bit bored.

Normally, I have no patience with political speeches in the villages (how many hours of rhetorical Arabic have I sat through?), but today’s surprise me, shake me awake: “We are against violence, we condemn it, we want to be free, the occupation with its hatred is destroying hope but we persevere for the sake of our children, we will win.” More poems, dramatically sung or recited, punctuate these orations. Now Ali rises to speak—in English, so that all the Israelis and the foreign volunteers can understand: “I bow my head to all the volunteers who came to An-Nabi Salih today, who struggled past the soldiers and the roadblocks and didn’t turn back. Our struggle is complicated and hard, a struggle that we all share—local leaders of the villages, women, children, families—the first large-scale Palestinian non-violent movement on the ground, aimed at building a just peace with Israel. When I see Israeli activists coming here to the village, my heart cries with happiness; I am honored to have these people with us. To all the Jews I say: you are not my enemy.

The occupation is your enemy, as it is ours. The Israeli state is a state that eats its children by sending them with weapons to kill and be killed. When you hurt us to the point where we lose our fear of dying, all of us together lose our love of living. They closed off An-Nabi Salih today to keep us out; they know how to put up checkpoints, but they do not know how to fight the feeling of freedom we hold in our hearts. We say to you today, on the Day of Peace: Peace itself is the way to peace, and there is no peace without freedom. I am proud to be in An-Nabi Salih, and I promise you: we’re gonna make it.”

As if on cue, soldiers roll into the village in their jeeps; they do what soldiers do, that is, they threaten, they bully, they make arrests, they take their hostages to an olive grove on the other side of the houses, facing Halamish. Our hosts ask us if we would be prepared to take water to the new arrestees (they don’t want to approach the soldiers themselves), so of course we set off through the village streets and down the hill until we find them. Some ten to fifteen soldiers, weighed down by what looks like tons of equipment, green camouflage netting on their helmets and rifles in their arms, are guarding a group of twenty-some students from Bireit university who came to join today’s festivities. We bring water, we chat with the captives, and suddenly it transpires that we’ve been added to their number; the soldiers won’t allow us back into the village. They don’t want outsiders in there, they’re glad they’ve thinned the ranks. (The presence of foreigners, especially Israelis, makes it harder for them to shoot.) After a few minutes we tire of this and strike out uphill, dodging the soldiers, who are clumsy, weighed down by their guns and all the rest, as they join hands to create a wall and hold us back, and skirmishes develop, and then the first stun grenade, and it ends with four activists, including Sahar and Lihi, caught, handcuffed and forced to the ground. I am too quick for them, as often, and escape their clutches by following Jonathan farther into the trees.

By the time I regain the village, the main procession—the ritual dénouement of the day– is already forming. Originally the idea was to reach the stolen spring, but the soldiers, waiting for us in force at the turn in the road, put an end to this dream. Tear-gas canisters and cartridges of rubber-coated bullets are loaded on to the rifles pointed at the crowd of women, children, men, young and old, many carrying in their arms green olive tree saplings to plant around the spring. We apply non-violent resistance by sitting on the pavement with the soldiers almost close enough to touch, they’re aiming at us, and I’m a little afraid they might open fire like yesterday, and even more afraid that one of the kids will throw a rock and all hell will break loose, but not one person throws a stone and there’s suddenly no end to the happiness that is washing over me in this crazy late-afternoon moment that I am lucky enough to witness as the light softens to a golden glow and a blessed wind gusts through the trees. People are singing: freedom songs. They swell to a sweet and strident chorus. Thirty minutes later, we turn our back on the army and go back to the Peace Tent to listen to music and see a performance of Debka, traditional Palestinian dance.

If the Israeli army had a brain, which it apparently doesn’t; if the government of Israel had even an iota of generosity of spirit, which it doesn’t; if the people of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world could open their ears and hear the voices I heard today, in Arabic and English, but they can’t; if the world weren’t all upside down and crooked and cruel, but it is—if all these ifs could only stop being ifs, then they, whoever gave the orders, wouldn’t have tried to stop us from coming to An-Nabi Salih today, in fact they would have welcomed the arrival of this new generation
of proud peace activists from Hebron and Ramallah and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance wouldn’t be pushing the heavy rock uphill, day after day. I guess it’s in the nature of such movements to struggle with the rock. Human hearts are heavy as stone.

Something new is happening in Palestine.