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A Friday Afternoon Under The Boot of The IDF

January 2, 2012

It was something similar to a typical Friday afternoon in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, since December of 2009 the village has been holding weekly peacful demonstrations against the continual land grab by adjacent Jews-only settlement of Halamish which was established on the village lands. The initiation of the weekly demonstrations was sparked when settlers from Halamish rushed & occupied the Al Qaws under full protection of the occupation forces natural water spring belonging to the village of Nabi Saleh which, like a majority of West Bank villages, has a serious problem with shortage of water due to Israeli Civil Administration (which is nothing short of a centralized IDF martial command post in the West Bank) strict forbiddance for West Bank Palestinians to drill for underground water wells on their own property.

As pointed out earlier this Friday wasn’t just another typical Friday demonstration on the village’s lands, for this was the first weekly demonstration following the targeted fatal shooting of an unarmed demonstrator Mustafa Alrazaq Tamimi who was shot in the face with a metallic gas canister from the distance of a few meters from a small opening in the back of an armored IDF jeep.

Prior to the start of the demo some solidarity activists had the idea to drive up to the occupied Al Qaws spring in a minibus with Israeli license plates and stage a silent disruption, since the spring has become a tourist attraction for Jewish Israeli visitors at the settlement. I was offered to join the ride, which was to be taking place prior to the demonstration proper that is taking place on foot from the village’s main road, I declined, preferring to spend more time with pals who were going to march to the spring on foot, as is done every Friday. As expected the ride-up demonstrators who staged the silent sit-in on the road by the spring were violently arrested & dragged off into jeeps which then rode into the Halamish settlement IDF base. This is not an unusual response by the occupation army in these non-violent mixed demos at which Israeli & international solidarity activists are participating along with Palestinians. The army tries to remove the sitters as quickly and as smoothly as possible to avert any growing inconvenience to the Israeli tourists at the occupied spring.

I myself have been taken to custody by the occupation army a number of times in the past in the midst of peaceful demonstrations in the West Bank, there is always a colossal separation between how the occupation army treats the Israeli & international detainees and the way it treats Palestinian Arab detainees. Palestinian detainees receive a quick separation treatment from us Israeli & international activists, they will be the first to be handcuffed & blindfolded while Israeli & international detainees will often spend their entire detainment unbounded. Another crucial difference is the Palestinian detainees are immediately charged with “throwing rocks” by the soldiers & captains while the Israeli & internationals are merely charged with “disturbance of the peace” or “being located in a closed military zone”. Getting detained or arrested with Israeli or international activists the Palestinian detainees will receive a much lighter treatment than they would if they are detained without the leering eyes of detained Israeli & international observers.

I have had many Palestinian friends who have been brutally beaten, spat at, kicked while they’re bound on the ground moments after their arrival at their detainment location. Often the soldiers will occupy a house in the village, force all the residents outside or lock them in a small room in the house, afterwards they will bring their “catch” Palestinians who they’ve detained without charges, march them into the house and administer torture right there behind closed doors, while their relatives hear their shouts & screams of pain! Moments, JUST MOMENTS before they take their detained Palestinian Arab victims  out of view of Israelis & internationals they make it look as if these fellers are just going on a short trip! A show for the ever present cameras accompanying the weekly demos. I remember vividly the first time I was arrested & held captive in one of their barracks with a group of other detained friends I was feeling very cocky knowing full well & doing all my book learning about the separate treatment of Jewish Israeli flesh & Palestinian Arab flesh by the occupiers, I refused to follow orders, refused to stand up, refused to sit where they wanted me to sit, the response of the occupation soldiers was: “c’mon this is not like you see in the movies, we don’t beat anyone here, just get up and sit over there” I knew this was a joke, a week earlier the Coordinator of the popular unarmed struggle Bassem Tamimi was beaten to a bloody pulp right here! Right at this very base before being let go! They had no charges against him, they beat him just to scare him, this is what they do, its done on a daily basis all around the West Bank where unlucky Palestinian are being detained without non-native observers, they are being taken from their homes and brutally beaten often even stripped naked throughout the entire ordeal! If they’re lucky they will be allowed to return home and seek medical treatment instead of being hauled away to one of the dreaded stinking occupation detainment camps where their wounds will not get proper treatment and they can expect weekly/sometimes daily repetition of physical violence from camp guards & forced nudity!

Now, my stubbornness often lands me in trouble, as it is not once that I’ve been  “taken aside” for a “a few good words” with the batons of the soldiers or being the only Israeli detainee to be blindfolded throughout the entire period of detainment (which just lasts for a number of hours until the occupation captain decides to send you to police station or free you) but I was not expecting what was in store for me that Friday at the weekly demo in the grieving village of Nabi Saleh which has just experienced the slaying of its first martyr, first casualty of the popular struggle.

As I mentioned before I joined the main march down the village’s main road to the occupied natural water spring, as always we were met with a barrage of tear gas canisters, shot directly as bullets, & plastic covered metallic marble bullets which locals like to nickname “rubber bullets” which don’t contain any rubber whatsoever.. All this is taking place following the violent mass arrest of the riders to the spring, after they have been unloaded at the base a civilian settler has attacked one of the Palestinian detainees amongst the riders while he was handcuffed as the soldiers were watching and not lifting a finger to pull the settler away, leaving a bloody gash on the victim’s face, another example of that colossal separation in the treatment of Palestinian and non-Palestinian detainees.

As we were picking our wounded from the main road we decided to change course and head to the spring via the rocky valley down the hill, another group of marchers were detained down the valley as we marched downward as the captain and soldiers shooting, cussing at us & sharing sickening sexist remarks to our sisters whose chants lifted our spirits & blew away our fears as in every demo. Finally the dirty captain decided we had enough and began gunning up to the remaining protestors which scurried away up the hill running after one of my friends who, if caught, will receive the typical “justice” saved only for the Palestinian Arab. I decided to make a stand and remain standing there proudly with my Palestinian flag, last thing I know the dirty captain yells “catch him!” I didn’t even move.. really had nothing to “catch”.. the captain grabs me by the collar and commences to chock me while dragging me down the valley to the jeeps, meanwhile the other soldiers kick are kicking me in the shins, all so slightly so the media cameras from behind wouldn’t catch. All this time they attempt to make me drop the flag unsuccessfully cheering to themselves “aah we finally got him!” realy again.. I was standing right there, I didn’t even run away. At one point the captain is chocking me so hard I black out for a moment & fall on the rocky ground, captain screams “GET UP!” as the other soldiers kick me on the ground as the captain finally pulls me up by the collar. Someone grabs my flag and I lose it. The captain then scoffs at the soldiers “NOT here! not here!” then lays onto me “you want to be one of them? You want to be like them? You’ll receive the Palestinian treatment!”

The captain

The captain then proceeds to push me up the road and another soldier sticks me behind the jeep and smashes my head against the metal jeep doors then yells in Arabic: “spread your legs!”,”give me your arms!” as he’s cuffing me 2 other soldiers come up and punch me in the head and body, 3 more jump in and begin to repeatedly bash my head on the metal doors all the while kicking me in the legs and feet, beating my torso with the blunt ends of their rifles. Screaming in pain that only made them hit me harder with repeatedly threatening “shut up , SHUT UP!!” for fear my screams were to be heard by media persons & demonstrators stationed up on the hill. I’m standing cuffed fearing that if I am to fall then that would be the end of me! More and more soldiers are lining up to repeatedly punch the dirty traitor in the stomach as hard as they could, some of them take a running start and begin ramming their metal helmets crushing my face and head against the metal jeep doors, all this time laughing and goading: “you’re not so tough right now are you?”

What pathetic cowards? The 5th strongest army in the world! They wouldn’t get close to me while I was standing few feet from them holding up the flag taking in their sexist dirty remarks, their interjections “if you’re a man come here, come, come” yeah, you are truly brave brother even your face is covered with a protective facemask! Following the beating, I guess every one of them got a turn, the captain grabs me again and throws me inside another jeep, the driver, in civilian clothing, most likely a settler who works there, peeks in “oh ho ho! Look what we have, now you’re not as loud as you were over there!” I guess he heard the chanting from the settlement. A soldier throws my bag into the jeep as well as the flag! Then grabs the flag back and removes it from the poll leaving me a nice white poll while he’s stomping the flag to the ground. Another soldier lays in with the camera, by that time I still had my kaffiya on, the other soldier wants to remove my Kaffiya before taking a picture of their catch, but the others interject: “he looks more like a terrorist with this on, leave it on him!” The jeep drives a few meters where im unloaded into the main base barracks where I meet other comrades who were detained earlier with a look of bloody horror on their faces “are you ok? Do you need a doctor?” I did need a doctor, besides hurting everywhere I felt a particularly sharp pain in my chest that wouldn’t go away, but I declined, I do not trust my captors to bring me a doctor or anything that wouldn’t aggravate my situation. I did recall how when I was blindfolded once I’ve gotten thirsty and a guard gave me something to drink which tasted like piss, that was months ago, but I did not forget.

I do not regret my stance, and I am prepared to make it again and again! Every blow from the blunt end of their rifles felt nothing compared to the pain of the last Friday afternoon when we lost you Mustafa! There is no life under occupation that’s worth living without resistance.. I was lucky to come off that afternoon with an assembly of swollen bruises on my head and shins and a cracked rib it felt like what was in store for me was much more then that, but I would do it again! For the bones will heal but your mother’s pain will never heal! It was my pleasure standing beside you on all those runs around the zaitoon, I have set it for my self to be a friend a comrade of the oppressed, the ones struggling for freedom and dignity well you have already received your freedom and dignity and in the process inspired us all to march on!

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