My first taste of ‘fire’ today, 10 June 2011, in solidarity with the pastoral Palestinian village of Nebi Saleh. Like everyone else, first-timers and seasoned demonstrators, I was shocked at the violence used by the soldiers against non-violent protesters – men, women and children, Palestinians, Israelis, and foreigners alike!
I can confirm that there was absolutely no provocation on the part of the demonstrators. We’d hardly taken our first steps through this sleepy village when tear gas canisters started falling all around us, the air became filled with the acrid smoke, and our eyes, mouths and skin took the impact of the tear gas.
Is this not chemical warfare? Personally, I can’t think of any other description that fits. No matter what you call it, it is being used in the most vengeful way imaginable against an innocent, civilian population who want nothing other than to legitimately walk down to their spring of water without harassment by the settlers who have built a village on their land (the red-roofed settlement of Halamish) or the soldiers who use sophisticated chemical weaponry to prevent them from even walking down the road in their own village.
Aside from the tear gas and rubber bullets, there’s also – by way of a grande finale – the notorious ‘skunk’ which is driven through the village spraying homes and people with a putrid, sticky chemical concoction, the ingredients of which are a mystery. Fortunately, I didn’t get to smell it at close range. It was bad enough to get a whiff of it from afar as our group, like the sheep ahead of us, eventually turned tail, and made our way back across country to our cars, leaving Nebi Saleh’s brave inhabitants behind us.
Next Friday, they will once again find themselves in a “closed military zone” face-to-face with a force that with impunity douses them, their children, their homes and village with chemicals and sows confusion and chaos. As we seem to be unable to stop the establishment’s terrible tactics, I think the very least we can do is be there with the Tamimi clan in Nebi Saleh. It’s scary, I know. But if you live in Israel, you should at least experience it once. That way you will know and never forget.
Whether you live here or not, I beg you to forward this email to everyone you know. This is not quite the democracy we claim for ourselves…
I have published an album and a note on Facebook – please visit and like and/or share, or not.
The young girl wearing the black and white keffiyeh-patterned dress and scarf is the 10 year-old daughter of Bassem Tamimi, peace activist and Nabi Saleh’s non-violent popular struggle coordinator. She looked so sad as she told how she hasn’t seen her father for a couple of months. He’s been in custody since late March. Tamimi wrote an incredibly compelling statement for his trial, but was not allowed to read the full version in the military court. Fortunately, it has made its way on to the internet. You can find it at