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The war in the West Bank

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Israeli military firing tear gas at Palestinian youths at Qalandia checkpoint, 19 November 2012.

This past week while the world was watching eight days of air strikes on the Gaza Strip, the West Bank erupted in unexpected protests at every major checkpoint and city, leaving three Palestinians dead and at least 200 arrested including government officials, in an incursion by the Israeli military.

The less reported clashes in the West Bank began raging on November 15, the day after Ahmad al-Jabri, the second in command of al-Qassam Brigades, was assassinated by an Israeli missile that incinerated the Hamas official in his car. Within hours the West Bank Palestinians initiated their own struggle against the Israeli occupation forces that spanned the entire duration of the Gaza bombing, with lulls only during school hours and late at night. But halfway through the week, Palestinian schools and universities went on strike, which extended the hours of popular resistance.

youth hill
Palestinian youth retreating towards Qalandia refugee camp after Israeli forces fire dispersents.
Palestinian youth throws a rock at Israeli forces.
Palestinian youth runs from Israeli fire.

On a normal day under Israeli occupation, at the Qalandia checkpoint, the militarized gateway into the West Bank, there are about eight soldiers who range in appearance from lack of interest to annoyance. But during times of political tensions the number jumps to around 20, suited up like a life-size G.I. Joes in green. Yet during the past week Qalandia was controlled by three units of around 10 soldiers who broke off into smaller groups in the village and the refugee camp of the same name.

Although there is organized non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation, it is a misnomer to classify the fighting at Qalandia as pacifist. Still, the disproportional force is obvious to anyone who sees it. The Israeli military uses weapons that if used in the United States would send crowds fleeing. Here the ammunition is dodged, ducked — and at times, plopped into a slingshot and fired back. The youth responded to the military entering their neighborhood by throwing stones and shooting dynamite in homemade launchers constructed from cardboard. In a region that is de-militarized beyond the Palestinian Authority police force, these tools are the only weapons at the youths’ disposal. And this past week they used their handicrafts against live fire that was shot indiscriminately in a populated area.

B’tselem reported two days ago that in total since November 15, 39 were injured in the West Bank, 16 from live fire.

idf roof
Israeli forces climb on the roof of a Palestinian business.
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Israeli border police aim weapon at Palestinian youth in front of Qalandia main terminal.

Meanwhile at Qalandia, the shops with metal gates over their doors near the checkpoint that were forced to close early became sanctuaries for children and other pedestrians who walked home, or waited for taxis in a thick atmosphere of tear gas. Each day of the air strikes on Gaza, Qalandia was covered in tear gas. One butcher on a corner before the checkpoint had a window smashed through by a tear gas canister that choked the two people inside of the small shop, until the smoking dispersant was thrown outside. But even after, the gas in the store was unbearable for the rest of the day.

Throughout the week, by 5 pm, it became impossible to stand on the sidewalk without watering eyes and coughing. To aid people on their commutes, the Red Crescent Society parked by the shared taxi stand, distributing cotton balls doused in rubbing alcohol that could wipe the gas residue from peoples’ noses.

Inside of the East Jerusalem, groups of Israeli border police were armed with guns that launched tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds. The police even scaled the roofs of Palestinian-owned businesses in order to have a closer range to throw rocks and shoot dispersants at Palestinian youth. Photographing from the rear of the clashes, I sensed some humor in the adult men weighed down with protective amour and over-sized weapons cumbersomely scaling a one-story building. They had difficulty tossing rounds of tear gas to one another and I saw at least three fall to the sidewalk.

On the fifth day of clashes, November 19, one Palestinian journalist wearing a press jacket and a helmet was injured in the arm while crouching in a half-built house between the crossfire of the IDF and the shebab.

Elsewhere in cities like Hebron, or al-Khalil in Arabic (named the friend of God after the resting place of the religious patriarch Abraham), there were reports of not only the military, but armed settlers contributing to violence that spread through the city.

During the Gaza attack, deaths and grievous injuries were reported nearly every day in the West Bank. And, departing from the normal youth resistance to the occupation, a cross-section of Palestinian society protested–from women, to the educated-Ramallah activists, to residents of less politically engaged cities like Birzeit. Even regularly unmaned road blocks were met with stones. Addameer, a prisoners rights organization reported the harsh response of the Israeli military to an action near a settlement outside of Ramallah, where those arrested were blindfolded and berated:

On 15 November 2012, a group of young women protested at the illegal settlement of Beit El, near Ramallah, to call for an end to the attacks on Gaza. Of the fifteen protesters, eight were arrested. The women were shackled and blindfolded, and subject to a barrage of harassment, including calling them dogs, bitches, other humiliating insults and taunting them. They were treated aggressively, with their blindfolds being tied so tightly as to cause pain to the skull, as well as being held in various painful positions. Each woman endured an interrogation by male IOF soldiers, who denied them water, screamed at them, threatened to physically beat them and attempted to provoke them by laughing and singing loudly in Hebrew.

Palestinian youth launches dynamite at the Israeli border police, in front of Qalandia checkpoint.
dynamite 2
Palestinian youth fires dynamite at the Israeli border police.
Two Palestinian youth take cover from Israeli tear gas canisters.
Palestinian youth.

The popular resistance and the Israeli crackdown on protests in West Bank stands apart from both the Palestinian and Israeli military response during the last bombardment on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09. Indeed there was a swell in political activity, with at least two demonstrations a day in the notably blasé café capital, Ramallah, and some of the demonstrators praised rockets launched at Tel Aviv. Still only a fraction of the population was mobilized. The past week of clashes was a far cry from the anticipated Third Intifada, but unlike the construction of high rises and foreign donor aid, which dominated the energy of the Palestinian leadership over the past two decades, now the political landscape nods once again towards a model popular resistance. In turn, Israeli officials will once again have to deal with the reality that people living under occupation will not be pacified by force.

Rocks thrown at the Israeli military by Palestinian youth.

All photographs were taken by the author on November 19, 2012 at Qalandia, East Jerusalem.

Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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36 Responses

  1. Obsidian on November 25, 2012, 12:27 pm

    The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

    • talknic on November 25, 2012, 9:26 pm


    • Mooser on November 26, 2012, 11:49 am

      “The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.”

      The caravan bringing an unlimited supply of arms to Hamas? Yes it moves on, and Godspeed to it.

  2. NorthOfFortyNine on November 25, 2012, 1:12 pm

    Great work, Allison. Thank-you. -N49.

  3. gingershot on November 25, 2012, 2:17 pm

    I can’t help but think that the Palestinians are reuniting despite the attempts to Abbas and Fayyad to help Israel divide and conquer

    Hopefully this helps how Palestine starts to coalesce after Nov 29 and the vote at the UN General Assembly

    • ritzl on November 25, 2012, 3:21 pm

      Agree. From a universal desire for justice, surely, but also because the non-violent mode of the WB Palestinians is completely ignorable without its violent (necessarily so, sadly) counterpoint from Gaza. They’re completely complementary positions and a needed and natural part of the Palestinian “whole.”

      Political gravity is taking its course.

      • gingershot on November 25, 2012, 8:34 pm

        I was watching Khaled Mashaal on CNN with Amanpour and he just kept insisting on Right of Return for the Palestinian diaspora.

        And not just to some Bantustan like the Quisling Abbas says is hunky dory with him – to everywhere the Palestinian diaspora has right to by virtue of UN 194, Geneva Conventions, and International Law. I was WOWed

        The difference between Hamas and Abbas is really the Right of Return

        Amanpour was almost beside herself and ridiculous with her ‘when did you stop be*ting your wife’/hostile questioning.

        I know Amanpour is married to Rubin but she has really moved squarely to the dark side in carrying water for Israel – she’s as bad as David Gregory or Andrea Mitchell now

  4. Hostage on November 25, 2012, 2:57 pm

    It will be interesting to see how the Palestinians organize their armed forces and municipal police forces after UN recognition. Israel will have to treat all prisoners according to the 3rd or 4th Geneva Conventions – whether or not they particularly like the idea.

    The Security Service personnel have already signaled a willingness to deny the IDF access to cities. They did that in two different West Bank town during the IDF attacks on Gaza. They even deployed a force to block the IDF when it tried to enter the cities away. I can only find one of the articles now: PA security ‘block Israeli raid’ on West Bank city

    Here’s another more minor run-in: “PA detains 2 armed Israeli soldiers entering Tulkarem by “Mistake”

    I think that the status quo will be unsustainable after the UN vote. The US will have to drop the “Palestinian statehood is unhelpful” sour grapes PR spin. Whether or not it recognizes Palestine as such, it will still be required to treat it as an “unrecognized State” in all of its future dealings. That’s actually a step-up from it’s current diplomatic limbo act. Here are some encouraging signs:

    Mashaal: I accept a Palestinian state on ’67 borders

    Hamas and Islamic Jihad, not currently members of the PLO, have representatives on the reform committee that will meet after the UN bid.

    Israel is officially ‘disappointed’ with the US stance on Palestines’s UN bid. Secretary Clinton reportedly was successfully “persuading” Israel to call off its punitive measures.

  5. Dexter on November 25, 2012, 3:24 pm

    Is the Nov. 29th U.N.G.A. vote moving forward as expected? I haven’t read anything…

  6. giladg on November 25, 2012, 3:29 pm

    The “awakening” in the West Bank is politically motivated and is being coordinated with Abbas’s move this week to the UN. But Allison is unable to make the connection.

    • Bubba on November 25, 2012, 4:52 pm

      Giladga — Allison is on the ground in the middle of it. Look at those photo, they were shot by her. Meanwhile, you sit in the comfort of what? Who can’t draw the connection?

    • Accentitude on November 26, 2012, 6:14 am

      Was the “awakening” of Israel and its massacres in the Gaza Strip politically motivated and coordinated by Netanyahu and his lapdog Ehud Barak to coincide with the current Likud primaries and upcoming Israeli elections in January? Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

      • seafoid on November 26, 2012, 1:49 pm

        I just heard on the radio that barak will leave frontline politics. The dove turned rottweiler. Achieved nothing.

      • WeAreAllMadeOfStars on November 26, 2012, 4:30 pm

        Excuse me Seafoid but though I agree that he turned rotweiler, I can’t think for a second that he started as a dove … and besides that I think you should stop insulting animals

      • tree on November 26, 2012, 8:57 pm

        I can’t think for a second that he started as a dove …

        Maybe he started as THIS dove:

        “De Duva”, from 1968, a parody with faux Swedish. Watch for Madeleine Kahn!

      • Accentitude on November 27, 2012, 2:54 am

        I suppose his Barak is worse than his bite. Zing!

    • Allison Deger on November 26, 2012, 12:46 pm

      Most of the demonstrations “call outs” came from the Popular Struggle Coordinating Committee, which is independent. As for the demos in Ramallah, the call was circulated in part from the Ramallah activists that have done at least a half dozen protests against the PA, including both the actions at Beit El during Pillar of Cloud as well as a protest against Hillary Clinton’s Ramallah meeting. In this sense, there was no coordination between the popular resistance and PA UN aspirations. With that said, the PA does seem to want to again persue statehood in the fall, and I heard from other journalists here that when they had interviews with some* PA reps, party politics dominate the conversation.

      It’s important to keep in mind that while there are strategies for statehood, that outreach does not include cajoling youth to protest, or throw stones at the Israeli border police who moved into the cites and villages by the checkpoints last week. Things just don’t function that way here.

      • giladg on November 26, 2012, 3:42 pm

        Why would they share their bigger and often subtle plans with you Allison? With all due respect, if the word got out they would suffer significant damage? Of course there are often spontaneous instances of throwing stones and such. This has gone on for 20 years.
        By the way, there is nothing “independent” in the West Bank and if you think differently then you are really playing the useful, need I say, idiot. The Palestinians are not the helpless innocent victim you make them out to be. Watch the the other hand Allison.

  7. Mooser on November 25, 2012, 4:31 pm

    “The “awakening” in the West Bank is politically motivated…”

    And, what exactly, is wrong with that? Sure beats the “politically motivated” war crimes Netanyahu used to get votes.

    “and is being coordinated”<

    Unlike Israeli actions, which are all joyfully sponteaneous?

  8. Bubba on November 25, 2012, 5:00 pm

    In the first photo at the top of the article, the soldier on the far left is using a red magazine clip while the others in the photo and article are using black clips. Any of you armchair cowboys know the difference between a red and a black clip? If not, stay within the safety of your chair arms.

    • Sumud on November 26, 2012, 6:37 am

      Do tell.

    • Mooser on November 26, 2012, 11:54 am

      “If not, stay within the safety of your chair arms.”

      First of all Bubba, if you are that badly endowed, the last thing you want to do is call attention to it, but that’s up to you.
      And you want to talk about “safety”? Why don’t we compare the death rates for households with guns and without?
      Hey, but if you feel the need to shoot your wife (most likely) or a friend or relative (next in line, look it up) or yourself (the usual use) I won’t get in between you and your heart’s desire.

      • Bubba on November 27, 2012, 5:00 pm

        Moose — what amazing logic you are endowed with!!! Do you also believe households with kitchen knives have more stabbings than those without? Should we even consider swimming pools? I’m just blown away by your many and varied assumptions. “…Shoot your wife…” you are also generous.

  9. HarryLaw on November 25, 2012, 6:12 pm

    ” Palestinian statehood bid wins European backing” well according to opinion polls see here Among Britons questioned 72 per cent said the Palestinians had a right to statehood, only 6 per cent disagreed. The Labour opposition want the Government to vote yes, Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg wants his coalition partners to vote yes, but they are inclined to abstain, this would be wrong, since the vote is going to succeed anyhow, and they claim to want a two state solution, an abstention could only be to please the US and antagonise the rest of the world. What will the US’s junior and ever subservient partner do?

  10. gamal on November 25, 2012, 11:17 pm

    I see one of your trolls at the top of this thread is quoting what is reputedly an Arab proverb, heres a Hebrew one “A little fire burns up a great deal of corn”. i dont know why but it made me think of that great Israeli scholar poet Gabriel Levin, born in France and emigrated to Israel in the ’70’s, i guess, think he lives in Jerusalem for those who have an interest here is an article he wrote about the mu’allaqatt or hanging odes, it also contains some correctives to the Islamized history of the Arabs, which is altogether too simplistic and profoundly distorting, the song of songs is a structurally perfect example of Arabic poetry having all the formal elements of the genre, as noted by Morris S Searle, Jews like these guys and the late Levtzion, are the best scholars of Arabic, Islam and Arab/Arabian culture that the west has. The Hanging Odes are some of the seminal texts for “Arabicness”, a very fine analysis here.

  11. Avi_G. on November 26, 2012, 1:37 am


    You’re starting to stray close to Orientalist Hasbara territory when you write passages like this:

    On the fifth day of clashes, November 19, one Palestinian journalist wearing a press jacket and a helmet was injured in the arm while crouching in a half-built house between the crossfire of the IDF and the shebab.

    shabab or shebab (depending on the speaker’s dialect) simply means Youths.

    But when you use such Arabic words like the Israeli press often does, and couch them in exotic and dangerous context, it weakens your writing. There is no need for you to pepper your article with ‘native’ terminology in order to show that you are in touch with the reality on the ground. We already know you’re there.

    In addition, there is no relation between the youth in the occupied West Bank and the Somali terrorist group known as al-Shabab. So why create those negative connotations? You could have simply referred to them as, “Palestinian youths”.

    And, departing from the normal youth resistance to the occupation,

    You see? You could have used that same straight forward and simple terminology in the previously-referenced paragraph.

    If you were reporting about Israeli youths, would you have used the Hebrew word, “No’ar”?

    Sorry, but it’s like a Jodi Rudoren episode all over again.

    But during times of political tensions the number jumps to around 20, suited up like a life-size G.I. Joes in green.

    Perhaps I’m quibbling here, but your choice of words conjures images of boys playing with their toy soldiers, something that is associated with innocence and fun.

  12. Emma on November 26, 2012, 5:22 am

    Thank you for your reporting, and thanks to Mondoweiss for its invaluable service.

  13. Kathleen on November 26, 2012, 8:39 am

    Allison thank you for this report. Real breakthroughs in the US MSM about what was really going on in the Gaza on Up with Chris Hayes. A few mentions of the illegal settlements in the US MSM being at the core of the conflict. But still what is going on in the West Bank is essentially ignored. Diane Rehm and other NPR outlets have not touched this critical issue in depth in years.

    • American on November 26, 2012, 11:02 am


      thanks for putting Chris Hayes on my radar, watched his show sunday am….was floored that some honest discussion on I/P was allowed on a cable network…. so different from the usual Israel all good, Palestines all terriers.

  14. Theo on November 26, 2012, 9:04 am

    Year after year all we see palestinian children throwing rocks at armoured israeli vehicles, a useless act to risk your life.

    Someone should tell them how did the french resistance get weapons, not forgetting the russian, greek and yugoslavian partisans and the jews in the Warshaw ghetto. They did not throw stones, but handgranades, and used weapons taken from the enemy to fight them and kill them.
    Or how did the hungarians during the 1956 uprising against the soviet occupation use mostly molotov cocktails and captured weapons to destroy around 200 tanks and other armoured vehicles and drove the soviet army out of the country.
    Israel, France and GB used this preoccupation of the soviets to attack the Suez Canal, allowing the soviets to come back with a fresh and much larger army to crash the uprising.
    Palestinians, learn from history, other did better than you do.

    • tree on November 26, 2012, 2:09 pm

      Seriously, Theo? You are saying that the French resistance in WWII, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising “did better” than the Palestinians? The only instance you cite that didn’t turn into a debacle was the French resistance, and that was ONLY because the foreign Allied Forces were able to push the Germans back. The French resistance was not responsible for the liberation of France, and the other two uprisings were NOT successful at all.

      • Theo on November 27, 2012, 10:41 am

        Sometimes a succes is not measured by winning or loosing, but how good was the game.
        The french liberated Paris themselves, blew up trains, bridges, stole a great part of their weapons from the occupying forces and many died fighting the nazis. The french honor them, not the ones who layed low and waited for others to free them.
        The jews in Warsaw did not go to the slaughterhouse like cattle, but put up a great fight, considering their means.
        The hungarians teached the soviets a lession and Hungary was the first communist country with private business and the people able to travel to the west. After 1956 the soviets had to loosen the grip on that land.
        It may not mean much to you, however waiting for a sunny day in Palestina is not the way to freedom. They are dying every day, might as well take a few IDF lads with them. I personally would rather get shot when I fire a kalashnikov at the IDF, not by throwing stones!

    • Mooser on November 26, 2012, 2:33 pm

      Palestinians, learn from history, other did better than you do.”

      Yeah, Theo, reading your comment tells me there’s not much question about who is learning from history, and who hasn’t.

    • RoHa on November 26, 2012, 9:15 pm

      “how did the french resistance get weapons”

      The RAF flew them in from Britain. Usually they were dropped from the planes, but sometimes there were places where the planes could land.

      Eventually the USAAF got into the act as well.

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