2 Arrested at 1st Women-Only Demonstration in Ni’lin

24 July 2008

On Wednesday, July 23, over 200 women, Palestinian, International and Israeli, held an extremely successful demonstration in the village of Ni’lin, where an ongoing struggle against the Annexation Barrier has been waged for several months. Gathering on the edge of the village, the women of Ni’lin, who were joined by Palestinian women from Ramallah and Tulkarem, the women chanted “No, No to the Wall” in Arabic and English as they marched towards the site of the bulldozers. One member of the Popular Committee, and husband of one of the participants, ran alongside the demonstration, shouting encouragement. As the women neared the soldiers, who met them several hundred meters away from the bulldozers, they immediately threw sound grenades into the crowd, dispersing them only for a moment as the women regrouped and moved off the road and into the olive groves, headed towards the bulldozers.

Soldiers finally managed to stop the smaller, forward group of women who then began a heated negotiation with a commander, demanding that they be given the chance to access their lands. Interspersed with the “negotiations” the women were planning their best route to the bulldozers. Several times soldiers threw tear gas canisters into the group but the women, who deal with tear gas being thrown into their houses throughout their lives, were more than a match for the Israeli Army, spraying room deodorizer in the air and effectively neutralizing the effects of the tear gas. Each time tear gas was thrown, the group used the opportunity to move a few meters forward, always with the goal of reaching the bulldozers.

At this point, the member of the Popular Committee, who had been standing back as the women conducted their own demonstration, ran up to the small group of women directly in front of the soldiers, and offered to walk with them through the line of soldiers and on towards the bulldozers. As he held hands with his wife, who was linked to a line of women, he took only a few steps forward when he was brutally attacked by soldiers, who grabbed him and kicked him in the groin. Only last week he had been seriously injured when a rubber-coated steel bullet entered his upper arm, and he continued to tell the soldiers that he was injured and should not be pulled by that arm. He was viciously knocked to the ground where Palestinian, International, and Israeli women all grabbed him to prevent his arrest. After soldiers struggled with several of the women, and a few boys who had also arrived to watch the demonstration, the group was successful in de-arresting him and he backed up. In the meantime, several more men from the village showed up, holding signs the women had made and standing behind the line of women, clearly allowing the demonstration to remain in the hands of the women, while also offering their support. The soldiers, however, were also finally given targets that they felt no qualms about mercilessly assaulting. Though the men and teenage boys were no where near the soldiers and were quietly holding signs on a ridge, soldiers rushed the group, shooting dozens of rounds of tear gas and brutally beating any man they could get their hands on. A soldier who had been particularly savage then took aim and threw a tear gas canister at the head of an international woman from PSP, spraying her with the chemical contents of the canister that burned her skin.

Soldiers then began randomly grabbing Palestinian men, beating them, and finally arresting a 50 year old man, Jamaal Amira, and the only international man present, a Canadian national. While in custody, the Canadian activist told others via text message that he was being beaten and spat on. His hearing in front of a judge will take place some time on Thursday, July 24. Amira, who is accused of assaulting a soldier, will most likely be held for the 8 full days allowed by Israeli law before being taken in front of a military court. His situation is, of course, far more precarious.