Clashes outside of Ofer prison on during a Nakba demonstrations on May 15, 2013. (Photo: Allison Deger/Mondoweiss)
Clashes broke out across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, yesterday as Palestinians marked the 65th anniversary of the Nakba. Nakba, or “catastrophe,” refers to the displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians and destruction of over 500 villages during the founding of the state of Israel.
In the West Bank, Palestinians mobilized outside of Ofer prison, where last year over 1,000 demonstrated. This year numbers dropped, with only 300 taking part in the actions outside of Israel’s military prison and court, and location of a mass detainee hunger strike last year. The Israeli military fired tear gas and rubber bullets, injuring over 50 protesters. Emergency medics with the Red Crescent Society also reported one demonstrator was shot in the leg with live-fire. Palestinians burned tires and tree branches, and used sling-shots to throw stones and a handful of Molotov cocktails.
Protesters burn tires outside of Ofer prison.
Prostesters flee from tear gas fired by the Israeli military outside of Ofer prison.
In Jerusalem clashes took place at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City. Israeli border police fired tear gas and used a water cannon on some 200 protesters. Inside Israel, Palestinians also held a demonstration in Jaffa at the clock tower, the location of weekly events in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.
Most protesters seemed to expect a low turnout. For the past year each of the national holidays have functioned as placeholder events rather than departure points for political uprising. “To come here it was to resist the occupation, to be in touch, to fight,” said Haithem Khatib from Bil’in.
Glass shattered by dispersant fired by the Israeli military during nakba clashes at Ofer prison.
Protester holds Molotov cocktail during nakba demonstration outside of Ofer prison.
Demonstrator prepares to sling a rock at the Israeli military.
Protester constructs barricade outside of Ofer prison.
Nearby in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA) hosted a festival with musical and dance performances for a third consecutive year on Nakba Day. Youth organizations were bused in from villages adjacent to Jerusalem. Hours before the concert began a municipal truck drove around the city requesting attendance over a loudspeaker.
Yet for the Palestinians demonstrating outside Ofer prison, the Ramallah events signified a resignation to the occupation that many feel is trickling down due to the PA’s failure to make changes on the ground through their state-building project. “There are no soldiers in Ramallah” said Khatib, explaining that over the past few years more Palestinians are choosing to attend the city celebrations rather than face-off with armed Israeli soldiers.
Still, Palestinians are not united over their views of the PA. Mahmoud Elayn from Budrus is supportive of the civil administration and hopeful that the United Nations non-member observer status garnered last November will yield benefit in the future. “People here think this [state-building] project is a loser, but I don’t see that. We have to be patient,” noted Elayn. In Budrus many Palestinians are being squeezed out of the village over strict Israeli military zoning laws that forbid new construction. Elayn estimates that 40% of Budrus’s residents have relocated to Ramallah in the past 25 years out of an inability to build new homes. “You can consider that they suffer a Nakba until today,” he continued.
In Budrus there are weekly Palestinian protests against Israeli land grabs of the village’s agricultural grounds for the separation wall. For Elayn demonstrations like those on Nakba Day are a habitual reality of living in the West Bank. But even with offers from family members abroad, he will not move outside of the village. “Every person has his identity. I should be here, I should make my contribution.”
Palestinian protester shot in the head with a tear gas canister.
Palestinian injured by a rubber bullet lays inside of Red Crescent ambulance.
Medics treat protester for injury from a rubber bullet.
All photographs were taken by the author outside of Ofer Prison on May 15, 2013.