Getting shot in Palestine — a Norwegian activist’s story

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On Saturday, Norwegian Palestine-solidarity activist Kristin Foss was shot in the abdomen by an Israeli soldier using a rubber coated steel bullet, while standing still and posing no danger, hands raised in the air. This occurred in occupied Kafr Qaddum. She posted her video of the event, which also got publicized in Norwegian media (see here, video embedded at top). She was knocked down and left with a bad bruise. 

I interviewed Foss today. Excerpts: 

JO: Let’s talk about what happened on Saturday. You were in this demonstration in Kafr Qaddum, which has been demonstrating since 2011…

KF: The demonstration is about the [main access] road being closed. I think the road [to Nablus] is normally a couple of kilometers, but now they have to drive 14 kilometers to get to Nablus, which is like the area capital. And of course there’s a lot of students at university there, and people working there, so it’s not just economical, but also time consuming. And the road is theirs, so why shouldn’t they be able to use it?

JO: Is this one of those ‘Jew only’ roads as they say?

KF: It is. It doesn’t say ‘Jews only’, but Palestinians are not allowed to use it.

JO: Describe what happened.

KF: I got there, I was actually a bit late, so it had already started, and the soldiers, they were at two points in the village. And the demonstration, it starts close to a main road, I think it’s close to a mosque. And they want to walk towards the settlements, or just to the end of their road, to do the demonstration, but they never get that far. So [the soldiers] were at the end of this road, and then they were also on a hilltop, three soldiers there and about three on the road. And on the road it was fairly quiet, so I went up on the hilltop, I was just standing on the sidelines, with my Icelandic colleague Anna, and we were taking some photos, just making sure that the Israeli soldiers knew we were there. And the soldiers were shooting at the kids – I mean, it was mainly kids, some probably as young as six, throwing rocks that never ever hit a soldier –I mean, I’ve never seen a soldier being hit by a rock so far. So this went on for a while, and then it started getting quiet, so we went on to the road again. And then this old Palestinian man comes up to me and asks if we could help him get his car back, a white van parked in the middle of the road. He didn’t speak very good English… but I think he wanted to pick up his wife or something. So he asked if we could walk with him, for protection I guess. We said yes. So Anna and me are walking side by side with our hands up, and he walked very fast, so he disappeared in front of us and started talking to the soldiers, whilst Anna and me were some 20 meters behind, and we stood still, and I had my camera. And then one of the soldiers shouts something at us in Hebrew, and then he shouted that it’s dangerous, and I shouted back that it was only dangerous because he was pointing his gun at me. I think there was a shot in between when I said that. And then they shot me.

JO: It seemed to me from the video, that as you were discussing with the soldiers, they moved towards the car in order to shoot you. It’s as if they were using the car as a sort of shelter. Is this why they confiscated his car, to use it as a kind of protection?

KF: My theory with the car is…because they did this also last week, they took a car and put it in the middle of the road, and they had the doors open, so that the people throwing stones will hit the car. Obviously they don’t want to damage the car of their neighbor. That car [last week] was from a cement company, like a company car, came driving through the village, like randomly. So they took his car, put it in the middle of the road and used him as a human shield for about two hours – he had nothing to do with it [the demonstration].

JO: Where did they put him?

KF: They had him sitting right next to the car – there’s a video of it actually. Then they arrested him afterwards, saying that he had brought in international observers to the demonstration.

JO: Yes, it’s a kind of shield, an ‘economic shield’ you could call it, but you are also describing to me the human-shield aspect. In this [recent] case there was only the car, and what is striking in the video, you were being shot, with what is supposedly ‘riot suppressing gear’, but it’s obvious that you were not rioting, you were simply standing there. Have you seen these things happening to others?

KF: In these demonstrations, they do shoot at the villagers. And the way it starts, especially on Friday demonstrations, they have a banner and one guy with a megaphone, and there’s old men and kids, and it starts really quiet, with them trying to walk up this road and to the end of the road – and then they [the soldiers] start shooting. So they’re just shooting at peaceful protesters. And then it starts with stone-throwing, and then more shooting, and teargas. Last week as well, they had soldiers at the top of the hill, and they shot tear gas at the back of the demonstration, and the soldiers in front shot at the front, so we kind of got caught in the middle of all this teargas.

JO: I’ve heard that Norway has asked for an ‘explanation’ from Israel, like it did recently when the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza boat was stormed. What do you think will happen?

KF: I don’t know, I’m not too hopeful, to be honest. But I’m thinking now, it’s six Norwegians it’s happened to. And surely they can’t just accept another [explanation]. And this one is also more hard to explain, because I videoed it, and it’s very clear – I was standing still, and you can see from my shadow that I am holding a camera. And I still get shot. And he doesn’t warn me – he says ‘it’s dangerous’, but he never says I’m going to get shot if I don’t move. And then he shoots me, and I clearly pose no threat. So I think it’s going to be very hard for the Norwegian government to accept any explanation. Of course they say now already that they do warn Norwegians about travelling there, but it’s either that or sit in Norway and do nothing, watch the media, and then the Norwegian government is doing nothing, so I feel like it’s a responsibility as a citizen of Norway, to kind of be like an antidote to the Norwegian government.

So there is me; there is the Norwegian boat Kårstein (Freedom Flotilla); a month ago there were four volunteers who were supposed to come here working for the EAPPI [Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel], and three of them got deported immediately from the airport and banned for ten years; and there’s also the Palestine committee of Norway, they arrange trips to Palestine for Norwegian youth, just to see what’s going on, and…they didn’t even get to buy their tickets – the Palestine Committee has been told they are not allowed to arrange trips to Palestine. So the fact that a lot of Norwegians are being denied entry, I think now the Norwegian government has to react, otherwise what message are they sending to Norwegians? That Israel can do whatever they want to Norwegian citizens without it having any consequence? I think it’s horrible to use myself this way – I did get shot – but this happens to Palestinians all the time, every day and nothing happens. It’s not only not doing anything – there’s a lot of cooperation between Norway and Israel. The Foreign Minister, she was in a meeting with Netanyahu, a week after the Kårstein [seizure], shaking hands, smiling – the government is still pretending that Israel is a normal democracy which happens to be in a war with these crazy neighbors… it’s just bizarre.

JO: With the Kårstein (flotilla boat) Israel was first claiming that it all happened with any ‘exceptional events’ but then we got the stories of the beatings and the tasering and the death threats – so when Norway asks for an ‘explanation’ from Israel, you’re obviously going to get that Israeli version. And that’s maybe why what you do is so important. I mean, it’s tragic… in a way, I don’t like the fact that we are speaking just because you got shot, as it were. It’s not…something is wrong, I mean, you’re not supposed to be alerted to something first when someone actually gets hit by a bullet. But in a way this is what, we should expect, would wake people up from thinking ‘it’s just complicated’.

I ask Kristin what this experience of being in Palestine (for the first time) has actually meant for her.

KF: I guess now that I’ve seen it with my own eyes, I’ll be even more motivated to keep doing activism in Norway. And now because I’ve been here and I’ve experienced it myself, I think people should take me a little more seriously, my activism. Whereas before I was mostly commenting in media and written letters and stuff, I think now I should be able to do talks, and hopefully meet with some politicians, when I get back.

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Thanks for this, Jonathan and Kristin. I am sorry that you had to experience the violence of the IOF and that you were shot by one of the cowardly terrorists. I have wondered endlessly why governments do not stand up to Israel and stand up for their peaceful activist citizens… At last count, people from at least 18 countries participating in the Flotilla were mistreated/treated violently by the armed branch of the Israeli government but… Read more »

Apparently, the Norwegian government has not noticed all the American brokered peace talks have been a sham all along, while the illegal Israeli settlements have grown all along. They have ignored the obvious and gigantic disparity in power between the two adversarial negotiators. Wasn’t Norway occupied by the Hitler regime in living memory?