Report from Bil’in and meeting Jawaher Abu Rahmah

Israel/Palestine
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Jawaher Abu Rahmah is laid to rest next to her brother Bassem Abu Rahmah, who was also killed during a peaceful protest in Bil’in. (Photo: Joseph Dana via twitter)

Bilin was cold yesterday. It rained and the wind and damp got to everything.

About a thousand of us showed up – Palestinians, Israelis and internationals – to protest the apartheid barrier in the village. The Israeli army knew we were coming so flying checkpoints were thrown up on the main road into town. Most of us hiked around the apartheid abscesses and made it to the village where I was surprised (not really) to see Salaam Fayyad. I assume he applied in advance for an entry permit.

The march got underway after the Old Guard finished posturing for the cameras. We advanced about fifty or sixty meters when Fayyad abruptly stopped, shook a few hands, and bowed out. I heard a few jokes and sniggers as we marched on.

It wasn’t long before the Jewish People’s Liberation Army began to gas people. Sorry: It wasn’t long before the Israeli Defense Forces employed riot dispersal methods.

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Photo from the Bil’in protest (Photo: Ahmed Moor)

The Israelis used two types of gas canisters. The first, which you can see in this short video I took (below), is a fist-sized bulbous rubber projectile. It begins to dispense gas in air, causing it to spin wildly and change directions before it hits the ground. Its trajectory is very hard to predict.

The second type of canister is the more deadly kind – the kind that killed Bassem Abu Rahmah in 2009. It’s also used liberally by the young supremacists in uniform. Yesterday the steel canisters, about fifty percent larger than a neat stack of quarters, were fired directly at protesters. Their trajectory is more or less straight, but they come at you much faster.

And the gas. Well, ‘tear gas’ is a bad name for it. It feels like a million blue shards of glass tearing at your alveoli and shredding your eyes. You can’t see and double over, trying not to breathe. Acid tears are streaming down your face, but the overwhelming sensation is of being bombarded and suffocated. You’re ensconced in darkness and your thoughts are disrupted – you only want to get away. And every breath tears at your insides; vicious animals live in your lungs. I’d rather not breathe than take one more anguished, searing, charred breath. Then, you don’t have a choice; you can’t breathe. You’re struggling to run and are overcome by dizziness. Other people help you escape.

Only Jawaher Abu Rahmah didn’t escape. She protested, dignified and unwavering for hours. She refused to yield and for that she died. She was 36 and was killed for peacefully protesting The Jewish People’s Right to Self-Determination in Palestine. Her body now rests in the cold, red earth they deify.

We exchanged a few words of encouragement before I snapped her picture, when she was still someone’s mother.

I wish I knew how distressed she was.

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