What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'
Burqa, a village to the northwest of Nablus, began weekly demonstrations against the
"re-incursion" of Israeli settlers onto a hill to the west of their village. An illegal settlement was abandoned and demolished by the Israeli army in 2005, but in recent months two settler families returned. They set up house trailers as an outpost, a precursor to another settlement. Because of these settler families, the Israeli army is denying the owners of the land access to their fields.
The peoples stopped at the bottom of the final hill and announced their intentions over a loudspeaker. The soldiers were anxious and lobbed concussion grenades as we approached. There was no warning or provocation. The group backed down the hill a bit and organizers began to make more speeches over the loudspeaker. There was no possibility of advancing any farther. The soldiers directly above us made that very clear, gesturing with their rifles.
Observing the soldiers as we walked away presented a living definition of the cliché “itchy trigger finger.” At the conclusion several young boys threw a few stones from the road in the direction of the soldiers. They were so far below the level of the army on the hill that there was no danger to the military. It was a small futile gesture, an expression of frustration, but that wasn’t the issue. The tear gas was handy and it was used liberally. The tear gas blanketed the hillsides. Everyone scattered. There was no planting that week. The farmers will return again.
A couple young men threw stones, even though strongly forbidden to do so by the older men present. They were so far from the soldiers that their efforts were futile. These few stones resulted in rubber bullets, 15 to 25 tear gas canisters and sound grenades were shot or thrown. Three men where injured – two from the tear gas inhalation and one who was targeted with one or more rubber coated steel bullets and a tear gas canister. This targeted man was a gentle young man who had asked to take a picture of the IWPS woman. When he was visited in the afternoon, he had bandages on his shoulder which showed serious burn damage. He was in some pain.
Following the demonstration, a member of the village council offered to take the internationals to the homes that were invaded at night by the Israeli army, about two weeks earlier. The stories of the house incursions were similar. Sound bombs were exploded outside the home to wake up the families inside. Four soldiers from four jeeps entered the house, took the man in the house out with a gun to his head, then back into the house to sign and put figure prints on a blank piece of paper. The men were often then beaten. All of this happened in about 2 ½ hours. No one knew of any reason that these fifteen families were targeted.
The village councilor pointed out to the internationals the destruction that had been done to the village. Some of the actions seemed to have been recent and other in the last few years. Settlers had placed fire into the inside of ancient olive trees totally ruining them even if they were left standing. Village wells had some poisonous or distasteful materials put into them. Settlers burned wheat fields.
The councilor took us to an adjoining hill to view the recently re-established illegal Israeli outpost. This had been an area thick with olive trees. After the abandonment and destruction of the settlement in 2005, the farmer who owned the land was encouraged by the village council to develop it. He built some beautiful stone terraces and foundations for homes, and planted a variety of trees. Returning Israeli settlers polluted his well, damaged his building and water tank, burned his hay and pulled many of his trees up by their roots
As the councilor drove the MPTer and IWPS woman home, he told them of his village. In 1948, this village had a population of 11,000, half Christians and half Muslims. Now it has a population of 5,000. Christians who have greater access to outside help fled. He showed us the older part of Burqa where Christians had lived and to where some return to visit their three churches.
He then told the two women about his experience in an Israeli prison. He said he had his jaw broken in three places, but was given no medical attention. He was held for 51 days, 49 of which he was handcuffed. He lost 20 kilos and could only drink liquids when he got out of prison. When he left the prison, he used a stick to pry open his mouth. One wonders who could commit these atrocities against another human being? What happens to their humanity?