I was back in Nabi Salih yesterday, a rural village of around 500 in the beautiful Palestinian hills north of Ramallah, which has been touted as the place where a Palestinian Third Intifada could start due to the Israeli army’s unbelievably harsh policy with the village. This is a village that copes with daily incursions by the Israeli army; where villagers have been killed in the last two years during non-violent protests against the occupation and the settlement of Halamish that has stolen their water supply (with the backing of the army); where young adults are imprisoned on no charges through the ‘administrative detention’ law; where young children are taken from their homes in the middle of the night, to be threatened and humiliated by an army which has only one purpose, to keep any form of civil disobedience quashed.
Tear gas on the hillside of Nabi Salih
My presence in Nabi Salih yesterday was to join the weekly Friday protest march against the daily battle of Israeli occupation. I could write pages and pages about the copious amounts of tear gas fired at us; or the use of ‘rubber coated’ steel bullets that were fired at protesters, leaving everyone scrambling to get down for cover; the villager targeted directly with live ammunition; the medic targeted and hit in the head with a sound grenade; the journalist beaten up by soldiers; or the olive grove (a vital source of income) set on fire by the army. However the information on this use of force, this horrific use of force on unarmed protesters week in, week out, in Nabi Salih and other villagers like Bil’in, Nil’lin and Qaddam, is already readily available, there exists pages and pages describing this force and its effects on Palestinian protesters, yet it seems that barely anyone wants to know.
Instead while sheltering in a villagers home after the army started stalking the internal roads of the village looking for individuals to target, I started speaking to an Israeli activist, who, despite it being illegal for anyone who holds an Israeli passport to be in Area A of the West Bank, was compelled to stand side-by-side with the villagers of Nabi Salih in their struggle.
It was what she said about the Israeli government during this conversation however that struck me: “they’re experts at turning blood into money.”
As someone who is well aware of the majority society discourse in Israel and who has come across it frequently, it is a rarity to get an Israeli-Jewish citizen who criticises the State for its dealings with the occupied Palestinian population, never mind someone willing to come out with a statement that is so strong, and would be regarded as traitorous by Israeli majority society. But she is completely correct.
At almost every protest I have been to, including yesterdays, there have always been rumours about a new form of ammunition/gas/water cannon/sound grenade, and so on. Why? Well, these protests are the Israeli army’s testing ground, they know it and Palestinians know it. Over the years new weapons have been tested out on Palestinians in the West Bank, often tried out at these non-violent protests. In essence these protests are perfect; they provide unarmed live targets, which keep coming back week in, week out, allowing the latest Israeli innovations in military technology to be tested. This technology is then honed, improved, and then marketed to companies and countries around the world, with an invisible – but known – ‘Tested in the West Bank’ sticker. The injuries and deaths caused to Palestinians are just part and parcel of this process, or furthermore, proof of the working capability of these latest innovations.
But what can Palestinians do. If they don’t protest, even the hope that something could change in the future will begin to wane, the army will just continue what it does currently, and settlers from illegal Israeli settlements like Halamish will just grow bolder in what they feel they can take from, and do to, their suppressed Palestinian neighbours. However if they do protest they are part of this process, while also risking injury and at times death, all while practicing modes of civil disobedience that are deemed as good and correct the world over.
Sometimes resistance is symbolic, but at least it is still resistance; yet it pains me to see this exploited so heavily, not just for land, or to reinforce military occupation, but also for profit.
The Israeli government and the Israeli army have become, in the words of one rare, yet shining example of hope within this conflict, “experts at turning blood into money”.
I struggle to think of a sadder reality of national expertise.
(NB: I hope to write something in the next couple of weeks about Israeli-Jewish left-wing activists who go against the grain in their support of Palestinian self-determination and human rights, often at great detriment to themselves. These individuals are in my opinion the unsung heroes of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and I have been blessed to have worked and protested with them in the past. I have also been lucky that some individuals have opened up to me about their personal situations regarding this, hopefully I will put something together soon)