Demonstrating again, and again, and again, despite the risks and violence. Welcome to Nabi Saleh.
Imagine you live in a small village, and a big chunk of the village’s land is stolen by an illegal settlement, accompanied by an occupying army. Then, not satisfied with stealing your land, the occupiers also steal your water supply. What do you do? Maybe you decide as a community to demonstrate against the land theft and the water theft...
But at the demonstration, the occupation army gases you. They shoot stun grenades and plastic-coated steel bullets at you. They shoot live ammunition. At the end of the protest, they bring what looks like a water cannon into the village. As a form of collective punishment for having the nerve to protest, they spray your road, your houses, anyone who can’t run fast enough. But not with water, with 'skunk', or 'shit water', a foul concoction, with a smell even worse than it sounds.
So, the next week, what do you do? If you're the people of the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh, you demonstrate again. And again. Every week for four years now. You demonstrate despite the violence, despite night raids and arrests. Even despite the killings – 17 November will be the first anniversary of the killing by Israeli forces of Rushdi Tamimi, shot in the back with live ammunition. And 10th December - Human Rights Day - will be the second anniversary of the death of Mustafa Tamimi, shot in the face with a tear gas canister from the back of an armoured Israeli jeep.
I spent many months recently in the West Bank, and joined Nabi Saleh villagers many times. They welcomed international activists, and we demonstrated alongside them. Each time, we would gather just after noon, and the protest would be led off by the village’s children. It’s an unusual demonstration amongst those in the West Bank in that many women and girls take part too.
As well as showing our solidarity and support, we went each week to Nabi Saleh because villagers say the level of Israeli army violence is even worse when there is no international presence. A terrifying thought - it was certainly bad enough when we were there. Tear gas, stun grenades, plastic-coated steel bullets, live ammunition some weeks…and the dreaded skunk truck to add stinky humiliation to injury.
No one is spared really. Even paramedics are targeted. On my first visit to Nabi Saleh, I met A., a volunteer medic. He was there every other time I went too. That first day, we were stopped from entering the village by a ‘flying checkpoint’, a roadblock formed by two Israeli army jeeps. They’re not keen on international observers. Or medics. Anyway, A. showed me that we could still get to the demonstration by clambering up a mountain, instead of using the road. A. has been shot many times, despite being clearly dressed as a medic. He says, ‘I am like a (rubber-bullet) magnet’. He still goes every week though - his way of supporting the village’s resistance to the occupation.
You can’t be in Nabi Saleh this week, with the hope that your presence there might make a soldier think twice before shooting at protesters. But you can be there in spirit, and your solidarity will mean an awful lot. Write to the village and say you know of Nabi Saleh’s struggle; write and say you support them.
Write too to the Israeli authorities. Demand justice for the killings of Rushdi and Mustafa. Demand respect for the rights of the people of Nabi Saleh.
All the information you need to send a message of support is attached below. Or you can post a message on the Nabi Saleh Solidarity page on Facebook
Write for Rushdi. Write for Mustafa. Write for rights
'F.F.' is a full-time Amnesty staffer and schools' speaker, and recently spent several months in the West Bank as an international observer. We haven't used their name for their safety.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.