Another Martyr, another Mockery of Obama's "Peace Process"
Linah Alsaafin, a Bir Zeit University graduate, was in Nabi Salih on Friday, and her impressions are recorded on the website Electronic Intifada.
' “Ambulance! Ambulance!”
So far, there were three people who had suffocated from the tear gas, and three people injured by rubber bullets. I saw gas, and so assumed that it was another case of suffocation. But the cries got louder, urgent, desperate — quite unlike the previous calls. Along with those around me, we began running to where the injured person lay, 50 meters away.
Screams. “Mustafa! Mustafa!”
I ran faster. I stopped. The youth I was so used to, the same ones who were always teasing and joking and smoking, were crying. One turned to me and groaned, “His head. His head is split into two!”
My stomach plummeted and I forgot to breathe. Exaggeration, I thought. Impossible. Not here. More screams of “Mustafa!”
I saw the man lying on the ground. I saw the medic with one knee on the ground, his face a mask of shock. I saw his bloodied gloved hands.
Mustafa’s sister was screaming his name. I saw Mustafa. I saw the blood, the big pool of dark red blood. I saw the blood dripping from his head to the ground as they carried him and put him in a taxi, since the ambulance was nowhere to be found. I saw other the tear-streaked faces of other activists, and all I felt was numbness.
Mustafa’s sister Ola was still screaming, so I put my arms around her as she buried her head in my chest. I was babbling, “It’s ok, he’s gonna be fine, it’s ok” but she kept on screaming. Her screams and the disturbing reactions of those around me made my legs numb. Ola then left to go to the watchtower where the taxi with her brother was, and my state of shock crumbled as I gasped out my tears in the arms of my friend.'
Situated amid the mountains north-west of Ramallah, Nabi Salih takes its name from the prophet Salih, whom the Koran tells us was sent to prophesy to people who hewed their homes from rock, like the Nabateans. A blue-domed building on the remains of Crusader type structures is identified by locals as Salih's shrine. Byzantine ruins have been restored.
Near this historic village is a natural spring named Ein Al Qaws ("the Bow Spring") which is owned by a member of the Tamimi family.
In 2009 settlers from nearby Halamish control over the spring and it's surroundings and prevented Palestinian access to their land. Halamish, also known as Neveh Tzur, is illegal not only under international law but under Israeli law too, since at least a third of the land it is built was privately owned by Palestinians. But it has been allowed to expand with fresh outposts, and is used by the military as a training centre for religious cadets.
People from Nabi Salih and the nearby village of Dir Nizam began holding regular Friday demonstrations for their spring, and against the Israeli occupation. In February this year volunteers from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem filmed Israel troops making night time raids on Palestinian homes, waking children over 10 years old, and photographing them.
A B'Tselem report released in September says Israeli forces do not recognize the right of Nabi Salih’s residents to demonstrate. declaring their demonstrations illegal at the outset, sometimes even before the procession begins. The Israeli military routinely issues orders declaring the entire village a closed military area, blocks the roads leading to it, thus denying people coming from outside the village their right to join in the demonstration. The army and the Border Police deploy heavy force in the village even when the demonstrators are nonviolent and pose no threat. They fire enormous quantities of tear gas inside the built-up area of the village, which is home to hundreds of persons.
As Lina Alsaafin explains, Friday, December 9 marked the second year since the tiny village began its weekly demonstrations against the confiscation of the Kaws Spring. It also marked the 24th anniversary of the first intifada. People were expecting the army would use more violence than usual, but not that anyone would be killed.
'Mustafa, 28 years old, was critically injured after Israeli soldiers fired a tear gas canister at his face, and died at a hospital after his treatment was delayed by the occupation forces who had invaded the village to repress the weekly demonstration.
One difference that distinguishes Nabi Saleh from other villages with popular resistance committees, like Nilin, Bilin, Biddu and Budrus is that no one has been killed, or martyred in the protests. Beaten up, yes. Arrested, ditto. But never a death. Until yesterday.
Just before Mustafa went into the operating room, some good news came through. He had not suffered any cognitive damages to his brain, although he suffered a brain hemorrhage. There was a chance his eye might be saved. Relief washed over us. We tweeted, “please #Pray4Mustafa.”
I had pictured myself going to Nabi Saleh the next day, not the following Friday. I had imagined sitting in a room with weeping women, after passing by the somber men sitting outside. I had envisioned a funeral and an inconsolable Ola with her mother. Thank God there was a reassuring chance he would be ok. We’d make fun of his bandaged face, just like we did to Abu Hussam when a rubber bullet hit him under the eye a few weeks ago.
Then I got the call that Mustafa had succumbed to his wounds.
The soldiers laughed. They smiled. They took pictures of us, zooming in on each of our faces, and they smirked. I screamed at them: “Nazis, terrorists, vermin, programmed killing machines.”
They laughed at us as we screamed at them to let us through to where he was, unconscious in a taxi near the watchtower. They threatened us if we didn’t go back. We waved the flag with his blood on it in front of them. One of them had the audacity to bat it away. We shouted, “His blood is on your hands!” They replied, “So?”
I thought of Mustafa’s younger brother, imprisoned all these eight months. I thought of that brother’s broken jaw and his subsequent stay in the prison hospital. I thought of Juju (Jihad Tamimi), he of the elfin face who arrested a few days ago with no rights to see a lawyer after being wanted by the army for more than a year. I shuddered to think of the reactions of these imprisoned men from the village — Uday, Bassem, Naji, Jihad, Saeed – once they received the news.
I got the call just after 11pm Friday night. I was sworn to secrecy, since his family didn’t want to make it public yet. Anger, bitterness and sorrow overwhelmed me. I cried at my kitchen table.
The images are tattooed forever inside my eyelids. A bloody pulp on one side of his face. The pool of blood rapidly increasing. (Mama, there was so much blood.) His mouth slightly open, lying supine on the cold road. His sister screaming, her face twisted in grief. The young men weeping, looking like little boys again'.
In America, politicians bidding for the presidency are competing with each other as to who can be most "pro-Israel", and in doing so, denying any rights to the Palestinian people at all. Newt Gingrich says the Palestinian nation is an "invention" and does not really exist.
In Israel, Netanyahu continues to draw the encouragement that President Obama's talk of peace and "two states" need not be taken seriously, that Israeli settlements can keep expanding on Palestinian land and taking Palestinian water, and Israeli soldiers faced with a rightfully resentful civilian population can respond with brutality.
In Nabi Salih, a family mourns a son and brother whose life was taken for defending what was theirs, and a witness asks how as a human being she can be expected to feel anything but hatred for those who did this?
The Zionist settlers talk of imposing a "price tag" on the Palestinians for claiming their rights and upon the Israeli peace camp too.
What price can we impose, not just on those who pull the trigger, but those who give the orders, and above all, on those in the United States who could call a halt to this oppression and sacrifice, but for the sake of their egos and political careers, would sooner sentence Palestinians and Israelis to permanent hatred and war?