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‘Mustafa was freedom’: Testimony from an eyewitness in Nabi Saleh

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(Photo: Activestills)

Ibrahim Bornat, artist and activist from Bil’in, was standing next to Mustafa Tamimi when Tamimi was shot in the head with a tear gas canister at close range by an Israeli soldier (Bornat can be seen standing directly next to Tamimi in the now iconic photos on the right). Ibrahim is himself no stranger to the resistance. Since 2000, he has been in the hospital 83 times for injuries sustained by the Israeli military during demonstrations, and has been arrested five times. Here is his testimony about his experiences when Mustafa was critically injured on Friday, December 10. It was translated by Rena Hamadah, a Palestinian-Canadian activist in the West Bank.

Mustafa and I were alone, it was just the two of us, with the rest of the protesters quite far behind, and we were chasing the jeep and telling it to leave. We got separated from the rest, because the soldiers threw almost 50 tear gas canisters at once, so the whole protest was pushed back. The tear gas went over our heads and we got closer to the soldiers, shouting at them that they had thrown enough. The jeeps turned around to leave as they were shooting gas behind us. One jeep, however, lingered and seemed to be waiting for us to get closer. As we reached the jeep, the soldier opened the door and shot two rounds of tear gas. I think I saw this soldier’s face, but Mustafa definitely saw and whoever he is, Mustafa knows best.

Mustafa pushed me down, and one canister that was aimed for me flew over my head. The second one hit Mustafa, but I didn’t know it hit him at first because I thought ‘for sure they wont shoot at us from so close’. I thought he had just ducked down, and then I thought that maybe he had just passed out from the gas, because there was gas all around him. I went to him, laying face down on the road, and I turned him over and pulled the cloth off his face.

Of what I can say about it, it is worse than words can say. The whole half of his face was blown off, and his eye was hanging out, and I tried to push his eye back up. I could see pieces of the inside of his head, and there was a pool of blood gathering under him. His whole body was trembling. It started from his feet, then up to his arms, then it reached his chest, and then his head, and then a gasp came out and I’m sure at that moment he died. He gasped, and let out a bunch of air, and I knew at that moment his soul had left. I have seen many people, not a few, die in front of me, and I know death. Maybe later on they revived his heart, but I knew that his soul had left.

I ran back to get people, because we were far away, but there was no ambulance around, so the people around gathered him and put him in a service [a communal taxi] and tried to leave. The soldiers stopped the service and tried to arrest Mustafa, but when they saw that he was on the brink of death, they began to act as if they were humanitarian, to revive his heart. But what is ‘humanitarian’, to shoot someone to kill, and then to try to help him? These were the same soldiers from the jeep that shot him. They shot him, then say they want to help him. What they really did is prevent him from leaving. The body lay on the ground for half an hour. They wanted Mustafa’s ID, and they also wanted the ID of his mother, of another family member, and of Bassem Tamimi’s wife, because these people wanted to go out with him too. But I don’t know why they wanted the passport of a dead person! They were doing some kind of medical treatment while he was lying on the ground, but this was no hospital, and what he needed was to be taken to a hospital. He should have been flown out in that moment! There is nothing you can do for him on the street there.

I was with the family the whole night afterwards, especially with his father, who is very sick and on kidney dialysis. Mustafa’s family believed there was still some hope, so I did not want to tell them that I knew he was already dead. His father is very sick, and kept falling asleep and waking up again, and we didn’t tell him much at first, only that Mustafa had been shot but that, God willing, he would be okay. There are some things that are hard and give you no hope, and then there are some things that are hard, but there is something nice about them. Martyrdom is something that is hard, but it is also honorable, and that gave his family a lot of comfort.

I knew Mustafa as a brother in the resistance. We were close in the resistance to the occupation. Anyone who comes out with me in our resistance to the occupation is close to me, as close as my mother, brother, or father, whether they be Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, or international. He was free, and a person who is free fights the occupation. That’s the thing I can most say about him- he was freedom.

We defend ourselves through strength, through courage, through our right to this land, through steadfastness. The occupation, to defend itself, has to kill people. But we defend ourselves with our right. This is my philosophy.

Ben Lorber

Ben Lorber is a Jewish community organizer and activist living in Chicago, Illinois.

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18 Responses

  1. annie on December 12, 2011, 8:43 am

    Anyone who comes out with me in our resistance to the occupation is close to me, as close as my mother, brother, or father, whether they be Palestinian, Israeli, Jewish, Muslim, or international. He was free, and a person who is free fights the occupation. That’s the thing I can most say about him- he was freedom.

  2. seafoid on December 12, 2011, 9:04 am

    I presume the buildings in the background are settlement houses .
    The US weapons of the Israeli Jew in the armoured van. The unarmed Palestinian dead.

  3. MRW on December 12, 2011, 9:14 am

    For some reason, this death, Mustafa’s death, has affected me deeply. Maybe it was seeing the nanosecond before his life was extinguished, the red circle shown on this site two days ago, and knowing that if his mother ever saw this image, it would be seared in her memory forever as the what-if moment.

    But it has had this result: I despise Israelis. I hate them, as they hate others. I see no reason for their existence other than to blow up their own importance and mash American faces in the grandiose idea of why their country should exist, which is meaningless to me.

    Americans are no better. But I gave up on our lot on April 23, 2003 when I discovered the Iraq war was to get oil supplies to Israel because Israel did not want to pay the 25% premium for overland trucking charged by Russia’s Gazprom. So it sacrificed our treasure for their lies and this is the world we’ve got.

    • American on December 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

      “But it has had this result: I despise Israelis. I hate them, as they hate others. I see no reason for their existence other than to blow up their own importance and mash American faces in the grandiose idea of why their country should exist, which is meaningless to me. ”

      This killing pushed me over too. I don’t know if it was just the final straw or if it was that this killing was so obviously deliberate and brutal and “casual”.
      The Israeli don’t even make any’ pretense’ any more that shooting people in the head with tear gas cannisters are accidents.

    • Mndwss on December 12, 2011, 1:40 pm

      Mustafa was freedom and life. Israel is occupation and death…

      “I despise Israelis. I hate them, as they hate others.”

      I feel the same way, sometimes. I try not to hate, but Israel makes that very difficult.

      If Zio, Nazi or any governments teach their children to hate and think that Arabs, Jews or any minority are animals. Then governments like that should be hated. (And those of the people who support this evil).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP8uZrytG48

      I do not believe that the israeli people is evil. Just misguided by zionism like germans was by nazism.

      Israelis (and americans) can become better people, just like the Germans after WWII.

      Maybe they just need to be defeated like the Germans (or Americans in Viet-Nam).

      The death of Mustafa has affected me deeply too.

      And the supporters of his killing like the spokespersons of the IDF really makes it difficult not to hate.

      This murder is just so brutal.

      Like some of the reasons why i do not love the Jewish state:

      Muhammad al-Durrah and his father.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad_al-Durrah_incident
      The face of that child in terror?

      In March 2003, 12-year-old Hoda Darwish was sitting at her desk in a UN elementary school in Khan Younis on the Gaza Strip when an Israeli high-velocity bullet was fired through her classroom window. It hit Hoda in the head. The doctors at the hospital said that she would never awaken from her coma. But after two weeks she started to recover. When she woke up she slowly discovered that her life would never be the same again – she had lost her sight. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2011/05/201151271933214429.html

      This beutiful child looked so optimistic for a while after she was blinded, but later was so bitter and sad…. (I hope she will have a good life).

      The Gaza massacre.

      The flotilla massacre.

      But there is also hope.

      Like:

      Rafeef Ziadah.

      Asked: Don’t you think it would all be fine if you just stop teaching your children to hate?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aKucPh9xHtM

      Rafeef Ziadah – ‘We teach life, sir’

      Why is this so powerful?

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BP8uZrytG48

      Can “animals” teach zionists life?

      I hope so…

  4. LeaNder on December 12, 2011, 9:34 am

    thanks, Ben, that’s what it looked like. These two were too courageous for the Israeli masters taste, they were getting too close, thus a lecture was needed.

    Please convince Ibrahim Bornat to tell us more about Mustafa Tamimi. As others here, I can’t get him out of my mind.

  5. Kathleen on December 12, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I have been avoiding reading this account all morning. So brutal.
    ” One jeep, however, lingered and seemed to be waiting for us to get closer. As we reached the jeep, the soldier opened the door and shot two rounds of tear gas. I think I saw this soldier’s face, but Mustafa definitely saw and whoever he is, Mustafa knows best.

    Mustafa pushed me down, and one canister that was aimed for me flew over my head. The second one hit Mustafa, but I didn’t know it hit him at first because I thought ‘for sure they wont shoot at us from so close’.

    My mind went to the brutal killings of the illegal Israeli settler family. So cruel.

    • American on December 12, 2011, 1:20 pm

      My mind went to the brutal killings of the illegal Israeli settler family. So cruel.”

      Mine didn’t. That was by a sick, deranged ‘individual’ out for revenge. He’s going to prison to pay for it.
      This is different, it’s state sanctioned killing/murder of any Palestine you feel like killing, any time you feel like it. Of less importance than running over a snake on the road. Scott free from punishment and free to brag about it.

      • Kathleen on December 12, 2011, 5:02 pm

        I hope the person or persons who killed five illegal Israeli settlers from the same family are going to prison.

        The same deranged mentality of those who killed the settlers is the same deranged thinking of those in the Israeli army who killed Mustafa.

        Deranged and brutal thinking is like a cancer in the Israeli army in the Israeli settlers thinking and in some Palestinians.

      • American on December 12, 2011, 5:58 pm

        The Palestine who killed that family has already confessed and been sentenced to life in prison .

        It’s not exactly the same deranged thinking…that Palestine killed for revenge….the IDF kills for sport because they consider Palestines sub human and their government doesn’t punish them for it.

  6. Clif Brown on December 12, 2011, 6:04 pm

    I have been exchanging emails with a very good friend, trying to snap him out of his paralysis on the subject of Israel. In his latest to me he included this:

    “Right now my main job is taking care of my wife and the kids… This is the best I can do, and I won’t apologize for not being able to jump feet-first into any cause, no matter how compelling.”

    This is a generic excuse one can use for anything – my family first. It’s commonly used as a conversation stopper.

    But reading it, I thought of Mustafa pictured with his family. Is there any reason to believe that Palestinians love their families less than Americans or Israelis? Of course not. This is, in fact, what drives my activity concerning the Palestinians. I daily think of how much I have that they are denied, and with my money expediting the denial.

    So I sent my friend the picture of the Tamimi family titled “TamimiAlive.jpg” and the repulsive photo of his shattered face called “TamimiDead.jpg” and explained that his capital crime was stone throwing, with a link to the story.

    I asked my friend to consider how he would feel if Mustafa’s fate were meted out to either of our sons.

    In this way, Mustafa lives and continues to do good work and I’m glad to help him do it.

    • philweiss on December 12, 2011, 6:23 pm

      what do you want your friend to do?

      • MRW on December 12, 2011, 6:56 pm

        Phil.

        Two phone calls, as meaningless as it appears and might be, to the LOCAL office of your senator and congressman, with the express wish that the content of the call be passed along to the official.

        That’s a bare minimum. (Emails dont count anymore because the 20-something assistants intercept them, and either under-report or over-report. Paper letters are best. Always. Handwritten is even better. Copied to DC and the local office; this undercuts someone throwing them in the garbage can.)

        Over 15 years ago, congress was going to vote on something to do with technology–I forget, which is ridick because I helped organize it. This was before email was a big deal, or even known or used much by the general public.

        Congress got 176,000 emails protesting the Bill. That amount made the national news in the midst of the Clinton scandals, and it stopped the Bill. (Also made Congress aware of emails.)

        How did I do it? (I didn’t do it alone, but I organized the hell out of it day and night for 10 days.) My argument was two minutes writing an email with two sentences. That’s all. Short. Sweet. One voice. People had the time for that. I remember some people wrote the equivalent of ‘I object to Bill XXXX. Dont pass it, or my vote for you is at stake’.

        I know from my time working in DC that two-three sentence letters work best.

        Are you aware that Congress and major corporations consider one letter written to them the equivalent of 10,000 letters expressing the same? The non-smoking sections on planes were created on the basis of three letters written to American Airlines in the early 1970s. THree. True story.

      • Chaos4700 on December 12, 2011, 7:06 pm

        I’m sorry, MRW, but that simply doesn’t work anymore. If you’re not a lobbyist, no one in Congress will hear you or read your messages. There are some exceptions, maybe, but it’s such a tiny minority that it doesn’t matter anymore.

        The current Congress is just too corrupt. They won’t care about the rest of us until we start voting them out of office, wholesale, for candidates who aren’t part of the two-party machine.

      • MRW on December 13, 2011, 5:19 am

        Chaos, not at the local level. It’s different. They call home (local desk) to ask what they’re hearing. I called and bitched to my local rep, who replaced the Dem in 2010, that I never heard a word from him. Now I’m inundated with emails from the new guy…from DC. And I’m called every week for the telephone townhall.

        They hear it, but unless it’s a rumble, they don’t pay attention.

      • MRW on December 12, 2011, 7:13 pm

        “what do you want your friend to do?”

        Copy the MW Mustafa story with the photo–one page–and write on it in a big black marker: Stop this. Now. Our support is anti-American.

        I’m off to get some stamps to follow my own advice.

      • Clif Brown on December 13, 2011, 1:32 pm

        I haven’t asked him to do anything more than change the view he has had for decades that both sides are equally responsible and that he wishes they would simply destroy each other and be done with it. My appeal has been for him to simply keep in mind what I’ve mentioned to him the next time he hears news from Israel or sees U.S. politicians talk about Israel. The bottom line – Palestinians are people.

    • on December 12, 2011, 6:42 pm

      People love to live in a state of Denial .
      This is one of the most basic, primitive and the most often used defense mechanism.
      Denial prevents us from facing a bare/naked Truth, the “ahah moment”, that may change our lives upside down, when it does happen.
      Denial stops us from soul searching, from feeling discomforts, from challenging reality, from turning the “other way” . It keeps us in a sort of a Safety Zone , mostly of our own making, that gives us a certain stability, predictibility, comfort and control.
      Many do not like changes too much, especially the older they get. Many like to wallow in their old predjudices, ideas, sterotypes.
      It feels so good, so familiar and so secure.
      “Life is a jungle ,but this is my jungle ,and I know my ways in it.
      I’m not interested in ‘your ‘jungle.”

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