Please forgive the lengthiness of this email, there has been a lot to report. If you like, you can read it in installments, or all in one sitting, but I think it is all worthwhile. |
Nov. 1 2004
Our group met up with another group of internationals to go to a demonstration in the village of Budrus. Together we were a group of about 30 internationals with a few Israeli activists. The village of Budrus has a long history of resistance. There are demonstrations every week. Today the idea was to stop the work of an Israeli bulldozer crew which was demolishing village land, I think to build a settlement. Nearly the whole village was in attendance. Groups of women children and men, waving the Palestinian flag, chanting and singing, marched toward the work. As the procession approached the soldiers and the bulldozer, the soldiers began to throw sound grenades and fire tear gas. As the crowd began to retreat, one of the soldiers opened fire on a few young Palestinian boys who were throwing stones at the jeep. Let me stress the inequity of soldiers in body armor firing M16s at little boys with rocks. The internationals yelled at him to cease fire, and that he was in no danger, and he gave up after a while, and no one was hurt. Throughout the tear gas aggression, there were old women bringing plates of limes around to help with the tear gas. It just served to illustrate the normalc of this kind of violence toward civilian dissidents. Aggression and conflict is part of life here, and people have learned to deal with it by looking out for eachother. Next, the jeeps drove into the village and soldiers began to ram down the doors of families there. They said they were looking to arrest boys who were throwing stones. The houses they select are random, and there is no real suspicion of crime involved. It is a symbolic display of power. again the internationals followed them to monitor their behavior and they moved on. They did this at 2 or 3 homes, and one soldier chased a boy through the street, firing at him, and after a short while of this, they left the village. They obviously had no room in their vehicle to make arrests, and they seemed frustrated. Among the most notable thing for thing for the internationals was how disorganized the soldiers were. There were at most ten of them, mostly young boys of about 18 or 20 yrs old. They seemed confused and frightened. I kept thinking that if this was the US or Europe, that there would have been hundreds of riot cops there. The really disquieting thing is that their actions at times seem totally arbitrary. They have regulations and orders, but to a certain extent they do whatever they feel like. Although this may seem really horrifying, this day was a victory for us. The work was disrupted for the day, the soldiers left and no one was hurt. Its wierd, as crazy as this sounds, I really didn't feal like I was in any real danger of phyical harm. The soldiers were far more concerned with the Palestinians than us. They ran right past us. We are a mere annoyance for them. I do, however, feel like our presence was really helpful for the people of Budrus. I've had my doubts at times, but now I really do feel like an international presence helps to make Palestinians feel safer and boost morale. Later, our group decided to go to Nablus. There had been a suicide bombing that morning in Tel Aviv, and the attacker was from Askar refugee camp in Nablus. We were afraid that the people of Nablus would feel repurcussions from this, and they did. The city of Nablus is on lockdown, not just now but all the time. No one is allowed in or out, so we have to take a secret way in. I know this sounds worrisome to my loved ones, but I hope you can understand my reasoning. Upon arriving in Balata camp in Nablus, we learned that 5 people had indeed been assassinated by Israeli army special forces, one of them only 12 or 14 years old, for being suspected fighters or suspected of associating with fighters. A few people, myself not included went to the home of the family of the suicide bomber, as it was expected that the home would be demolished to punish the mourning family. They sat and drank tea with the family until 4am when the soldiers came to demolish the home.
We picked olives all day with a family that was afraid to go to their land without an international presence. It was the first time they could harvest their olives in 4yrs. It was a lovely day.
I want everyone to know that although this sounds really depressing, I am in high spirits. I feel encouraged and inspired by people every day. more later.