Monday, July 21, 2008

Israeli soldier shoots at a bound and blindfolded Palestinian

In recent weeks I have attended a number of demonstrations against Israeli policy in the West Bank village of Ni’lin.

Before 1948 Ni’lin owned 58,000 dunums (1 dunum is 1000 square metres). In 1948 the Israelis annexed 40,000 dunums to be part of their new state. After the Israelis occupied the West Bank in 1967 they built illegal Israeli settlements with roads leading out into ‘Israel proper’. These settlements and their infrastructure took away another 8000 dunums of Ni’lin’s land. At present the Israelis are constructing the Apartheid Wall around the village along with a military base which will take a further 2500 dunums. The Israeli authorities have also informed the village that they will be building a tunnel at the entrance of the village that will go underneath the settler road they currently use to access the village. The villagers will only be able to enter and leave the village through this tunnel which will connect to Palestinian roads. For this they will confiscate a further 250 dunums.

Experience from other such constructions around the West Bank indicate that the Israelis will use the tunnel to restrict access to village land that lies beyond the tunnel by only opening the tunnel at particular times during the day. Furthermore a buffer zone is required between the ‘settler-only’ roads and Palestinian areas in which no Palestinians are allowed to be. While this land is not confiscated as such, it is rendered redundant through lack of access. If land is not accessed for 3 years Israeli law states that it then belongs to the Israeli state.

So out of 58,000 dunums of land the village will be left with 7250 which will include inaccessible land and built up areas which cannot be farmed.

The loss of land goes hand in hand with the loss of freedom. The villagers will only be able to access the village through a tunnel built underneath the soon to be ‘settler-only’ road. Israeli soldiers will control the gate at the entrance to the tunnel and therefore control the movement of the villagers. Already the Israeli authorities have said that the gate in the section of the tunnel which serves the upper part of the village will only be opened for 45 minutes a day. This means that 1000 people living in the upper village will be completely isolated from vital services and they will be unable to go to work, further impoverishing an already strangled economy.

So for the last 2 months, internationals and Israelis have joined villagers in protests against the continuing confiscation of their land. The Israeli army have been responding with more and more brutality using excessive tear gas and sound bombs as well as rubber bullets and live ammunition. When I was there last week the soldiers appeared to be firing the tear gas directly at us. Not only does the gas cause severe pain and breathing difficulties but the canisters are extremely hot and when fired at high speed from long distances they can cause serious injury. I had worn a brightly coloured top to the demonstration naively thinking that it would be much safer to remain visible to the soldiers at all times. Instead it appeared to facilitate their target practice.

The army have declared a curfew on the village on numerous occasions in the last month as a result of the demonstrations which means that villagers cannot leave their homes for any reason. As a result, international activists have begun staying in the village to witness and document the abuse of human rights. While staying with a family last week, an international working with ISM was shown a video by a young girl which she had filmed a couple of weeks ago. The video showed a soldier shooting at a Palestinian villager with a rubber coated steel bullet. The man had been detained by the Israelis during a demonstration, he was bound and blindfolded and being held by a lieutenant colonel as the shot was fired. Here is a link to the video:

It should be noted that while the Israeli army has condemned the actions of the soldier, the lieutenant colonel who not only witnessed the attack but actually held the prisoner’s arm as the shot was fired, took no action following the incident. The only reason this has come to light is that the video was uncovered, if it hadn’t been then nothing would have been done and nobody would have known about it. One can only wonder how many other incidents like this go unnoticed in Palestine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This piles outrage upon outrage. How can the world turn a blind eye to this? Where is the moral leadership in Israel`s government?
Keep reporting and telling us what is going on in the occupied territories.