Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Palestinian Land Day

Today is Palestinian Land Day. There have been demonstrations all over the West Bank in every major city and many towns and villages, from Hebron to Jenin, commemorating the killing of six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel more than 30 years go while they were protesting the expropriation of their land. IWPS spent Land Day in Wadi Qana[1] at a demonstration organized by the local group Women for Life. The action was short but to the point: women chanted and marched with anti-Occupation signs that reflected in the masses of sewage that flood the would-be paradise.

Every day feels like Palestinian Land Day. The demonstrations are nonstop. I went to two in Deir Ballut village just this month, both planned with the intention of praying on land soon to be taken by the Wall. The first was relatively successful: international and Israeli activists joined Palestinians in a spirited march to the threatened land. When the call to prayer sounded from a village in the distance, villagers were reminded of something stronger than their individual pain, and they lined up to worship. After prayers, several demonstrators began the long walk home. Some young boys stayed to throw stones at the bulldozers, and for the first time I saw a boy pick up a tear gas bomb and throw it back towards the soldiers. One young protester had climbed a tree on a nearby hill and stuck a Palestinian flag at the top. All around us were small signs of children taking back power.

At Deir Ballut’s second March demonstration, the army parked at the village outskirts to prevent demonstrators from reaching their land. Protesters piled up near the jeeps, and in broken English the mayor struggled to convey to the soldiers how unjust their blockade was. After 20 minutes, most protesters were either injured from beatings or sound bombs or back in the village strategizing. I saw a group begin walking towards a broken truck on the side of the road. Moments later there were dozens of villagers pushing it towards the road. Before long, protesters had blocked the road with the huge truck and set it on fire. Now we weren’t the only ones trapped—the soldiers were, too.

Protesters walked back to the village, and the soldiers spent more than an hour trying to clear the road so they could leave the village. In the meantime I chatted with villagers and met their families. Occasionally a tear gas canister would fly onto a residential street and children would begin to cry. I escaped onto the roof of a tall house and watched as the soldiers slowly made their way back through the village. It was payback time. Everyone vanished into their homes. Soldiers jumped out of their jeeps one by one and ran through the streets. They were like characters in a video game, ready to snipe anything that moved. The village stayed quiet for hours until the soldiers finally got bored and left.

[1] For more information on Wadi Qana, see 2005 entry entitled “Environmental Destruction & a Stolen Road.” ***

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