CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE
This past Saturday, I had a meeting with a prospective Arabic tutor. Located in Jerusalem, she agreed to pick me up in front of the Qalandiya checkpoint. As a firm believer of, “When you’re on time your late, when you’re early you’re on time,” I was a half an hour early. Incidentally, a couple of young men were trying to set tires ablaze, setting an eerie tone. Journalist and cameraman from several news agencies were positioning. Perplexed, I quickly learned that it was the anniversary of Land Day. In commemoration of six Palestinians killed during a 1976 march against land expropriations in the Galilee, Palestinians and their supporters around the world protest Israel’s continuous occupation of Palestine.
Suddenly, a band of Israeli soldiers marched passed me. A dozen soldiers lined up against the separation wall while another group formed a barrier, blocking the entrance to the checkpoint. Hoping to discourage the presence of worldwide news coverage, soldiers shot several stun grenades directly at reporters. In close proximity, the powerful aftershock completely took over my body. Remaining calm, I asked a soldier whether or not he was aware that they were shooting at journalists. He responded “Don’t worry, those grenades are harmless.” Humanizing being shot at with stun grenades as a normalcy is outrageous; I became fearful that the life threatening weapons were reserved for the Palestinians.
Israel’s heavily armed military presence during a non- violent protest is also an intimidation tactic. Approaching the checkpoint (and soldiers), were dedicated peace protestors armed with banners and Palestinian flags, chanting anti-apartheid slogans. Soldiers immediately shot warning bullets followed with tear gas, eventually dispersing protestors. Subsequently, preventing peaceful demonstrations contradicts Israel’s self described egalitarian status.
Meanwhile, I continued to wait for my ride, only to find out she had to reschedule. Absolutely taken back at the chaotic turn of events, I was ready to call it a day. A journalist warned me to take a seat and let things cool off. Twenty minutes passed, and soldiers were still firmly aiming at the protestors. Accordingly, I asked a soldier if they were done shooting so I could head back to Ramallah, and his response was, “You’re free to leave but I can’t promise that I won’t shoot.”
Israel’s complete disregard for life, affirms their oppressive regime against the Palestinian people. Their excessive use of force against a nonviolent population draws parallel to behaviors of previous oppressive regimes such as apartheid South Africa. Moreover, their attempt to influence Palestinians to succumb to Israel’s tyrannical rule needs immediate intervention by the international community.
The aforementioned Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories exemplify the definition of apartheid. In exchange for sympathy, I challenge my audience to vocalize support for the Palestinian right to exist. Frankly, Palestinians were nonviolently protesting on Palestinian territory. Israeli soldiers invade Palestinian territory and utilize force to crush an otherwise innocuous protest, sometimes resulting in deadly outcomes. No surprise since Israel is one of the most technologically advanced militaries in the world. Still, Palestinian continue to protest courageously, despite facing imminent threat, refusing to give up their fight for freedom and peace.
Nejwa Ali is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.