Saturday, December 17, 2011

n & H in West Bank Day 6

MECRresource : Message: n & H in West Bank Day 6
Thursday Dec 15
No Wednesday diary-H & N sick

Today we are in Niílin, a small village 25 km to the west of Ramallah and located right at the wall. We are very fortunate to have been hooked up with the organizers of the popular committee, who have welcomed us with open arms. It is like this where ever weíve been; people taking care of us, sharing their food and homes, and their stories. They have many needs, but I think the first of which, is for the world to know about their struggle. For it only with the cooperation and support on the international community that will they be able to end the occupation. We leave Beit Ummar by taxi for Ramallah and then get a service (shared taxi) to Niílin.† It takes about 3 hours, even though they drive like crazy and, while there are small check points, we are not stopped at any of them. The service drops us right in front of the house of Saeed, with whom we are staying.

Saeed is a 20 year old man, who has just returned from a 3 month speaking tour of Europe. He was invited by the Sweedish Parliament. He speaks nearly flawless English, self-taught by using Google translator, and is clearly very bright. Before we know it, we are sitting in a small area outside his office (more like a 2 room concrete bunker in back yard) and in deep conversation over the obligatory tea. He has much to share. His father, Ibrahim, is one of the three main leaders (those who have responsibilities) of the Popular Committee of Niílin. The popular committees are in almost all Palestinian towns. They are the non-party affiliated grass roots movement that leads the resistance to the occupation at the local level. These committees cooperate informally with each other, but they make their own decisions. In Niílin there are 15 people on the committee, plus many volunteers. The different community constituencies all send one member to the organizing committee: each political party; each of the five families that live in Niílin; farmers; woman; youth; and the municipal govít. No votes are taken; they decide all issues by informal consensus. They sit around and discuss what forms the resistance should take. They are totally committed to non-violent resistance, even though they are faced with violence on a daily basis.

The resistance in Niílin started with the building of the wall in 2004. The farmers would go to protest in the fields. The Israelis, for unknown reasons, discontinued building until 2008. On May 27, 2008 the building started up again and Niílin had its first organized demonstration. It was put down very quickly, but the popular committee decided to have daily protests for 1 year. Since May of 2009 there has been a weekly Friday demonstration. The demos have met with fierce violence from the Israelis. Since May of 2008, 5 people have been killed,† 50 others shot with .22 caliber bullets that explode in the body in order to cause extra damage, and almost another 500 shot with regular or rubber-coated bullets. This is in addition to the use of steel covered tear gas projectiles like the one that hit Tristan Anderson on 3/15/09, and stink-water (sewerage, chemicals, and feces). The Israelis have also declared curfews, the longest of which was 4 days in July of 2008, put snipers on roofs to keep people indoors, shot at water tanks on top of houses and invaded homes during the day and night. Saeedís home has been invaded 25 times since 2008. They also put gates at the ends of town to limit access and jailed hundreds of people, mainly male youth.

Saeed himself was jailed at the age of 17 for 4 months in 2009 because his father was one of the leaders of the popular committee. During his time in prison, there was a demonstration that started because of the mistreatment and humiliation of prisoners. They shouted and knocked on walls and the nearest enclosing fence. There was no real threat to the prison or the guards because there were 3 sets of fences surrounded by a concrete wall. The guards shot hundreds of rounds of tear gas and hot stink-water into the compound and sent in guard dogs. At the end of the day, 83 prisoners were beaten, 3 eyes were lost and 4 legs were broken. Saeed was sick for 8 days as were many of the others. All prisoners were in solidarity with one another. All prisoners shared equally the resources and food provided by money sent from individual families. Saeed was the youngest in his jail section. His final words on the experience were, ìIím not a kid anymoreî and ìJail is a school. Political prisoners teach a lot.î When prisoners die in prison, their bodies are not released to their families until the completion of the sentence.

His father, Ibrahim, has been arrested twice; the first time in 2008 and the second in 2010. Beyond the punishment of prison, the Israelis took his work permit and now heís unemployed, as is 75% of the population of Niílin. While we were sitting there, his 17 year old brother returned from a 4 hour interrogation at the prison. He was obviously relieved, as interrogations often end with imprisonment. His brother said that he was asked to spy for the Israelis. When he refused they threatened him with serious jail time the next time they caught him. We then go up for lunch to the family house, which is in the middle of a family compound. There are 40 people living here ranging from the 82 year grandfather to the youngest nephew of 1 year. The family had always lived in the old city of Jaffa. In 1948 they were expelled and lived in Jordan in a refugee camp. In 1967 they moved to Niílin, where they are one of five large families. We eat communally with parents, siblings, aunts and cousins. Chicken, rice w/pasta, beans in liquid, couscous-like wheat and onions, and spinach tasting soup which was very bitter. They encourage us to eat a lot, and we, out of politeness, eat more than we want. After lunch we go out into the fields directly behind the compound to see the wall. The family is left with only 6 of its original 600 durams (duram=100 sq. meters) of farm land. The rest has been taken by the settlements or declared under military rule. The Village has only 7000 of its original 57,000. We walk not more than 5 minutes through olive groves when we start to see settlements in three directions. There is a great deal of incongruence in the visuals. We are confronted with high rise apartment buildings and town houses that donít belong in this environment. And of course we see the wall separating the two very different lives that are being lived on this land. This is where the weekly demonstrations take place. This is where the tear gas has been used. This is where people have been shot and brutalized. This is the very spot that weíve come to stand in solidarity with these oppressed people. As we walk back Saeed points out various markers where people have been killed. We are shaken. We are in awe of this peopleís bravery and fortitude. I wonder if Iím brave enough to stand with them. At the moment Iím not sure.

From a high spot he points out Tel Aviv in the distance and mentions that he always wanted to see the sea beyond, Itís only 25 miles, but it is impossible for Palestinians to get to. At least he saw the sea in Sweden and Italy on his trip. He was almost speechless during his first weeks in Sweden, and he cried a lot. He was overwhelmed by the difference between his home and Europe. ìFreedom, it was like heaven. People had respect for me as a human being. When I saw how well animals were treated, I wanted to be a dog in Sweden. Many people offered to have me stay, but I just became more determined to come home and fight for my country. Now I know the taste of freedom. Itís everybodyís duty to stop this occupation. Every day we are dying. There is suppression for everything in life. What about all the generations to come? Itís not impossible. The struggle will continue. Itís our destiny.î We arrive back at the ìofficeî, which houses his computer. He wants to show us the presentation he used in Europe and other videos that can be found on the net at Saeed, being the gracious host, asks if we want to rest. Although we are desperate for a break, we soldier on, both because of our need to witness and our feelings that our attention is the least we can give. After a half hour, I am in total overload and gingerly tell him that I need a break for a short while. No problem for him. He will go to the internet cafÈ to check his email (his internet down). Clearly honesty is best. I think we owe him that. We fall into an instant sleep and awake on his return sometime later. His father and 2 other of the older organizers of the popular committee join us. There is a round of introductions, thank yous on both sides and we settle in to watch. Very partial list of what we saw;

Ahmad Mousa, a 10 year old boy is shot in the head and killed on 7/21/08. People cry out for an ambulance, but are denied by soldiers. We see Saeed carrying Mousa in his arms to try to get him to a hospital. Saeed sees Mouasís brains spilling out of his head and faints. Others pick up Mousa, but it is too late. Saeedís cousin, and best friend, Yousef, 17 years old, is shot and killed on 8/4/08.

Agil Srour shot in heart and killed while attempting to rescue another who aws shot on 5/6/08.

Niílin demos in solidarity with the people of Gaza during the 2008/09 massacre of Gaza. Niílin is the only town to have solidarity protests.

2008 demo in which Saeedís father is being dragged from his fields shouting, ìKill me, kill me. I was born here, I want to die here. I want to die now. I want peace. Peace can give us peace-you and usî

Saeed takes us to† Mohammedís house in the village, which is where we will sleep for the night. Israelis have been at Mohammedís only 2 hours earlier looking for a boy that they want to arrest. Weíre with Mohammed and his wife and 4 kids, aged 4-9. This is a very happy family. There is lots of laughter and affection. The younger kids get a horsey horsey ride on their fatherís back and the kids and parents are very physical with each other. Itís a joy to be in their midst. . After the kids go to sleep, Mohammed shows us a bullet wound on the underside of his arm. He was shot with his arms raised in peace. He tells us, ìthere is a connection between your spirit and the land. When you are on your land, you forget your problems.î What a sweet man and a sweet family. 1 of 1 File(s)

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