Report from Bil’in and meeting Jawaher Abu Rahmah

on 7 Comments
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.

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.

7 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    January 1, 2011, 9:13 am

    When the disused Kalandia Airport is reopened under Palestinian control, let it be renamed the Jawaher Abu Rahmah International Airport.

    Freedom of travel for a free people.

  2. eileenfleming
    January 1, 2011, 11:10 am

    I was inspired to go to Bilin [so far 4 times since 2005] after Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli Anarchist Against the Wall spoke in USA in 2005.

    Jonathan has been beaten, shot with rubber bullets and arrested numerous times for standing up to the authority of the Israeli Army. On 27 December 2010, in Tel Aviv, the day that marked the second anniversary of Israel’s 22 days of assault on Gaza, known as Operation Cast Lead, Jonathan was sentenced to three months in jail for protesting Israel’s military blockade and siege on the Palestinian territory.

    In Nov. 2005 he said:

    “I was six years old at my first demonstration and active on my own at thirteen. I am 23 now. When they started to build the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank I would go a few times a week and watch them deceive the world. The Israeli government successfully marketed the Apartheid Wall as a security barrier. But it is all about segregation, separation and ethnic cleansing.

    “Civilian uprising and non-violent activism is not like the Gandhi movie. It’s not carrying posters and saying we don’t like your wall, go away. We stand in front of Caterpillar’s knowing we will be shot and arrested. I was shot five times in the last two years by rubber bullets, which are 1/2-inch steel bullets covered with plastic. I have been shot in the head and the more experience I have the scarier it is. One learns to recognize the ritual of it all: when the IOF will begin using the Billy clubs, when the tear gas will come, when the bullets will come.

    “We are not a dialogue group, we are an Israeli organization and we are not colonial liberators. All the strategy is done by Palestinians, we are with them seeking justice and giving support. There is no price to high to pay for freedom, equality and universal rights. Without justice there can be no peace.

    “Negotiations alone will not secure freedom for the Palestinian people. During the negotiations of the so-called Oslo Peace Process from 1993-2000, Israel simply imposed its will on the Palestinians, using its overwhelming military and economic power, and US support. During seven years of supposed peace, Palestinians saw 200,000 new Israeli settlers arrive in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the same number of settlers that had arrived there in the previous 26 years.

    “However, the recent grassroots struggle against Israel’s Wall has demonstrated that it may be possible to counter Israel’s overwhelming power, and its exploitation of negotiations, through nonviolent resistance. The Wall, is just one blatant Israeli attempt to impose its will, and has become a focus for civilian resistance.

    “Although Israel marketed the Wall as a security barrier, logic suggests such a barrier would be as short and straight as possible. Instead, it snakes deep inside the West Bank, resulting in a route that is twice as long as the Green Line, the internationally recognized border. Israel chose the Wall’s path in order to dispossess Palestinians of the maximum land and water, to preserve as many Israeli settlements as possible, and to unilaterally determine a border.

    “In order to build the Wall Israel is uprooting tens of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are also the last resource to provide food for their children.

    “The Palestinian aspiration for an independent state is also threatened by the Wall, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons [Bantustans/ghettos]. The Israeli human rights organization B`Tselem conservatively estimates that 500,000 Palestinians are negatively impacted by the Wall.

    “Faced with a history of suffering, Palestinians have no alternative but to struggle. The only question is how? Killing diminishes our humanity, and Israel’s occupation, which has killed thousands of Palestinians, shouldn’t be our teacher. It is time for both sides to refuse killing.

    “Though Palestinians have employed nonviolence since 1929, they have seen little evidence that it will help them to achieve freedom. In 2003-2004, the West Bank village of Budrus decided to set an example for how nonviolence can defeat the Wall.

    “All the people of Budrus mobilized, and were joined by Israeli and international activists. In 55 nonviolent marches, Israeli soldiers injured more than 300 people, arrested 33 and killed one, as the villagers, with their bodies alone, attempted to stop the destruction of their land. Faced with Budrus` determined protests, the Israeli government eventually moved the Wall to the Green Line. The village saved 300 acres of its land and 3000 olive trees. Children, women and old people were among the heroes of Budrus` nonviolent struggle.

    “Throughout the West Bank, nine protesters were killed in marches against the Wall, thousands were injured and hundreds arrested. Hundreds of civilian protests throughout the West Bank are the reason the world learned of the injustice of the Wall. As a direct result, the International Court of Justice at the Hague ruled in 2004 that Israel’s construction of the Wall violated international law.

    “The village of Budrus and the International Court of Justice ruling represent victories for nonviolent resistance. Another success of the joint struggle was the connection forged between Palestinians and the Israelis who joined them in their resistance. This connection, stronger than anything that ideas could create, was unwittingly forged by the Israeli army, through their beatings, the joint arrests and the bullets. Joining Palestinians in nonviolent struggle has allowed some Israelis to voice very clearly that the struggle against occupation and for freedom is not a Palestinian struggle alone, but is their struggle as well.

    “We believe that, as with Apartheid South Africa, Americans have a vital role to play in ending Israeli occupation – by speaking out, coming to Palestine as witnesses, or standing with Palestinians in nonviolent resistance.

    “We are confident that Israeli occupation will one day be defeated, as were other US government supported repressive regimes – Apartheid South Africa, Pinochet`s Chile and racial segregation in the United States. There is no price too great to pay for freedom, and nothing will deter us from achieving this goal.”

    link to

  3. Oscar
    January 1, 2011, 11:14 am

    So if it’s not tear gas, where’s the UN to shut this down? Too busy trying to hijack the Internet?

    • Jim Haygood
      January 1, 2011, 12:40 pm

      The US mission to the UN, acting as Israel’s agent, exercises a veto in the UN Security Council against any resolution restricting Israel’s lawless behavior.

      One can always protest to US ambassador to the UN Susan Rice for acting as a loyal, tireless enabler of apartheid.

      link to

      A new generation of African-Americans such as Barack Obama and Susan Rice, who coldly turn their backs on the liberation struggles of minorities elsewhere, make the achievements of the US civil rights movement look self-serving and parochial rather than universal. Not that they, as children of elite privilege, had the slightest thing to do with American social struggle in the first place. They’re just cavalier free riders.

  4. kalithea
    January 1, 2011, 12:02 pm

    Murder, plain and simple. Where is the International Community on this? Where is the outrage? Where is the mainstream on these Zionist crimes?

  5. Formerly T-Bear
    January 1, 2011, 3:58 pm

    Everyone needs to read wikipedia: Chemical Warfare (CW)
    link to
    for an overview of what is involved, its history of use, and many of the chemical agents that have been turned into weapons. CS is a CW agent used to disrupt and disable enemy soldiers. CS is a weapon of chemical warfare as are the nerve agents (famously used by Sadam on Kurd villages) and various blistering agents and blood affecting agents (most are listed in the wikipedia reference). Tear gas is used to affect the tear glands, watering the vision and to cause a choking sensation. CS is substantially more powerful and is a military weapon for military conflicts, not a policing weapon for defenseless civil populations.

    The use of CS against the civilian population is a war crime as well as a crime against humanity. Israel Defense Forces have lost any claim to legitimacy with CS use against civilians. The government that orders such actions has also lost all claim to legitimacy as well. Only when there is justice will there be peace, may that day soon arrive.

  6. Sumud
    January 1, 2011, 6:48 pm

    From your description Ahmed it sounds like the “tear gas” being used by the IDF is a stronger variety than normally used. It has now claimed at least one life, so let’s be accurate and call it what it is: a poison gas, a chemical weapon.

    Israel will claim Jawaher’s death was “unfortunate” and “deeply regretted”, as usual, but continue to use the same gas and the same high-speed canisters because they allow the IDF to kill Palestinians with plausible deniability – plausible only while the mainstream media refuses to do it’s job and hold Israel accountable. And, can you imagine the outrage if Palestinian militants gassed a jew to death? We’d never hear the end of it, how Palestinians are trying to create an open-air gas chamber..

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