MPTers made their third trip to Kafr Qaddum on 11/11/11, seven years after Yasser Arafat’s death which coincided with Veteran Day in the USA. We are starting to feel like veterans of this demonstration as we see familiar faces and are warmly greeted. We met at the center, had tea/coffee, banners came out, this time they were with the beloved image of Yasser Arafat. Children showed up (they lead the march but disappear before we get to the razor wire and soldiers), we moved close to the wire and a speech commemorating the memory of Arafat was made. After a number of stones were thrown the protesters were assaulted with profound quantities of tear gas and soldiers started gradually forcing the protest towards the center of the village. The tear gas was being shot at about 4-6 feet off the ground. In other words, it had been fired directly at the crowd. A safer way is to arch it up and let it drop. Such deployment can also injure but the velocity is decreased before it hits down at a single location. When fired horizontally, tear gas is like a large bullet and can have impact with people at a large number of points. Protesters have been injured and killed by such directly aimed shots. This time the military assault was aimed at the village’s houses along the road more than any time we had witnessed before. A child was taken out of a tear-gassed house vomiting. Even the local mosque where protestors usually take refugee and where the ambulance was stationed trying to assist the injured was tear-gassed as well after soldiers walked into the village. A local demonstrator was hit with a tear-gas canister in the eye. Rubber coated bullets and sound bombs were shot.
Hazzam Barham, a Palestinian who was lying unconscious from the tear-gas close to the barbed wire was arrested. After this the soldieries targeted one of the internationals and arrested him as well. Here’s a link to the video of both of these arrests:
They were taken to the police station in Ariel settlement. We later heard that the international was beaten and the Palestinian was humiliated in various ways: spat at and made to crouch with his head between his legs.
It appears that the Israeli Occupation Forces reacted with more violence in other locations as well. The following news release may interest our readers. http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=435998
The International was released after spending about six hours in Ariel’s jail. The Palestinian is still being held there and a lawyer has been assigned to him.
Why do the Palestinians continue these demonstrations? What do they hope to gain? There are probably many reasons. One might be the hope of international awareness and a long overdue international statement of "ENOUGH!" Or might it be simply ‘You can steal my land, you can steal my water, you can close my road, you can throw me in prison, but you cannot steal my spirit. I will continue to stand up for my rights.”