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The price of our silence on Palestine

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By Sarah Cheverton, WVoN co-editor

Courtesy of Balal Tamimi

The picture you’re looking at here is of the Israeli Army attempting to arrest a child in Nabi Saleh, a village in the occupied Palestinian territories.

It was taken on Friday 7th January at the village’s weekly demonstration against the occupation.

The woman standing between the Israeli soldiers and the boy is Alison Ramer, a Jewish American Israeli journalist who works with the village of Nabi Saleh and across the occupied Palestinian territories, reporting on the civil resistance to what is internationally accepted as an illegal occupation of Palestine.

“We were successful in having him not be arrested at that moment,” said Alison, “But I imagine [the Army] will come back for him later in the week.”

I met Alison and the villagers of Nabi Saleh late last year, during a visit I made to the occupied Palestinian territories with Buddhist organisation Sangha Seva.

As a result of that visit, I am supporting a women’s project in the village to build a sewing factory in Nabi Saleh. The factory will bring economic support not only to women affected by the occupation – many of whom have lost husbands or whose husbands have been imprisoned as a result of the occupation –  but to the entire village.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about this project on WVoN over the coming weeks. But for now, let me tell you a little about Nabi Saleh.

Across the valley from the village sits the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish (also known as Neveh Tzuf). The settlers of Halamish have already built their homes on the villagers’ land, and have illegally seized significant areas of Nabi Saleh’s valuable agricultural land.

In December 2009, the settlers of Halamish went beyond the settlement and took control of one of two fresh water springs belonging to Nabi Saleh, Ein Al Kus (‘The Bow Spring’), sparking clashes between settlers and villagers.

The Israeli army has continued to protect the settlers  who regularly visit the spring and cultivate the land, while forcibly restricting the villagers from going there for more than five minutes at a time.

In response to the taking of the spring, the villagers of Nabi Saleh joined the Palestinian Popular Struggle movement, a coalition of villages and towns in locations all across the West Bank and East Jerusalem engaged in civil resistance to the occupation, leading weekly and even daily demonstrations.

But how, you might well ask, did the boy in this picture come to pose a threat to an occupying force comprising one of the most superior armed forces in the world?

Since the taking of the Spring, the villagers of Nabi Saleh have begun weekly demonstrations to try to reach the spring and reclaim their land.

These weekly unarmed demonstrations have resulted in violent repression by the Israeli Army, in which dozens of villagers have been injured and imprisoned – week after week.

The problem for the Israeli army is that, despite their violence, despite the arrests, housing demolition orders and night raids, the villagers won’t stop demonstrating.

This means that the army have chosen to resort to increasing violence, including not only the arrest, torture and detention of the villagers’ children, but also attacking the village weekly with tear gas, rubber and plastic coated steel bullets and “skunk water”.

Courtesy of Balal Tamimi

Manal Tamimi leads the women’s project in Nabi Saleh and her house is hidden within the tear gas cloud shown on the left.

I asked her the age of the boy in the photograph.

“He is 13 years old,” she told me, “This week they arrested and tortured 3 children aged between 13 and 15 years in the village.”

“You see the cloud of tear gas around my house…we were in the middle of it. This is the way they end the demonstration this week.”

In addition to arresting children and adults, and tear-gassing the village, the Israeli army has also initiated weekly night raids of the village, and issued several housing demolition orders – a common instrument of repression used by the Israeli government in the occupied Palestinian territories.

These measures are intended to intimidate and threaten the villagers into giving up their demonstrations and protests.

But the arrest, detention and torture of children veils a more chilling reality of the occupation: the ongoing attempt by the Israeli army to induce children to become collaborators against their own people, a criminal offence in Palestine.

“The children are arrested, detained and intimidated to force them to provide information or evidence about other members of the village,” said Alison Ramer, “Some are even offered money.”

As Alison said, last week this boy’s arrest was prevented. Three other children were not so fortunate. This is the price of Western silence on Palestine, and the ignorance most of us – including me – maintain on the violent apartheid inherent in the current ruling regime of the state of Israel.

So break the silence. Find out more and start talking. Better than that, start yelling.

Find out more about Nabi Saleh by following journalist Alison Ramer.

You can follow the civil resistance of the village and others like it in the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

You can find out more about the Nabi Saleh sewing factory at Al Tariq.

  1. I have been learning of the injustice and overbearing practices of the Israeii government in the Palestine Region. It is so sad to see a people and a land that had such promise stoop so low as to oppress others that could be good neighbors.

    It’s very complicated in some ways, but Justice is simple… and that’s what Alison Ramer, is trying to show in her work. Thanks for your dedication to expression of justice and others working in this area… like the sangh seva group or yourself.

    Keep getthing the word out… and thank you,

    Kristina Tova Ramer

  2. Thank you so much for commenting, Kristina. My admiration for Alison, who is truly an inspiration to journalists and activists alike, is far bigger than this comments box could contain!

    Also, so beautifully expressed in your comment: “It’s very complicated in some ways, but Justice is simple…”

    Yes, that’s exactly right. I can say firsthand that you don’t need to be an expert in the politics of Palestine, Israel or the Middle East to know that the illegal arrests of children and the taking of political prisoners is wrong. I challenge anyone to visit the West Bank and not feel that.

    Thanks again, and please do keep commenting.

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