Nakba Day is a day of remembrance of the “Catastrophe” in 1948, 62 years ago, when 700,000 Palestinians were expelled from what is now Israel, and the state of Israel was established.
The village of Iraq Burin decided to walk to the settlement “barrier land” to release 62 large black balloons with a Palestinian flag emblem as a remembrance of Nakba Day.
The villagers and internationals, including MPT, walked eastward on a path, down into a ravine and then westward up a rather steep, rocky hillside to the “barrier land” across from the village. The group ascended slowing, chanting and carrying the black balloons. Upon reaching the top, they released the balloons. A few Israeli soldiers from the Israeli Occupation Forces [IOF] were present who shot off several tear gas canisters. It was not the volley of the week before of tear gas and setting fire to the dry vegetation.
Suddenly the people and children who had stayed near the village center overlooking the opposite hillside started shouting at the demonstrators. It was very confusing, but soon everyone realized that many IOF soldiers were coming up the eastern ravine and would separate the demonstrators from the village and leave them exposed on the opposite hill.
Most demonstrators had moved to the east and rapidly scrambled down the hill, across the ravine and up the other hill to greater safety in the village. But, a few people including a few internationals and a Palestinian were still on the opposite slope not far from where the twenty or more soldiers were coming up the ravine. They were not able to escape to the opposite hill near the village.
The soldiers came up the ravine and shot tear gas up toward the demonstrators on the hillside near the village. The MPTer , who was not on the village side, was concerned about the Palestinian person nearby who had been jailed recently and a separated international who had stayed a bit behind. Phone calls were exchanged and the separated international said she was safely hidden.
The Israeli soldiers, shooting tear gas at the villagers on the village hillside, walked up the ravine and up the hillside very near where the internationals and Palestinian were. The soldiers continued firing tear gas on the demonstrators for several minutes and then walked back up to the top of the hillside toward the settlement. The presence nearby of three or four very hard-working journalists and photographers may have saved the internationals [including MPT] and the Palestinian from being detained by the soldiers. They helped make the situation a bit less tense.
When an MPTer related this event to a Palestinian who had not been present and did not live in this village, he said, “I do not understand why you as an international are afraid. They [the soldiers, Israelis] cannot hurt you.”
What he said it true. Internationals are privileged here. They can be roughly treated, interrogated and deported, but they do not face the long [6 -12 years] imprisonment or torture in Israeli prisons that Palestinians often face. Internationals are not usually direct targets of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets or live bullets. Internationals can go home and live safe and secure from this kind of danger.
[For background and description of other actions on this day see: http://www.salem-news.com/articles/may142010/nakba-israel-mqq.php]