One year after the shooting of Brian Avery
Feeling Palestinian - one year after the shooting of Brian Avery
1) Feeling Palestinian - One year after the shooting of Brian Avery _ Lasse S. 2) Last year in Mas'Ha _ Starhawk 3) Israeli Army raided Tulkarem Hospital _ Weaverly
1) Feeling Palestinian One year after the shooting of Brian Avery By: Lasse S. April 6, 2004
Yesterday a year ago an Israeli soldier shot my American friend Brian Avery in the face. Yesterday a year ago I stopped running, turned around, and saw Brian laying on his stomach faced down on a street in Jenin. Yesterday a year ago my white T-shirt turned red.
It was the 5th of April 2003 around dinnertime. It was the third day of curfew in Jenin on the occupied West Bank, and it had been an intense day. Israeli soldiers in tanks and jeeps had patrolled the streets and Palestinian boys and young men had risked their lives to be on the street throwing rocks at the occupiers.
We were four ISM activists from Denmark, England and Sweden who had served as "human shields" for a large group of Palestinians kids most of the afternoon. By standing near the rock throwers we believe we are preventing Israeli snipers from killing Palestinian kids for throwing rocks against rocket-proof tanks. The snipers never killed when we were present but frequently when we were not.
I was tired. Approximately 30 Palestinians had been gathered on the main street where three tanks had been driving up and down again and again. But an hour earlier the tanks had left and the centre of town had been quiet since. We had left the group of Palestinians and were on our way back to the ISM apartment when two-three shots went off in the distance. I called one of the two other ISM activists in Jenin, Tobias from Sweden, on the cell phone. He told me that he and Brain were on their way out and would meet us downstairs from the apartment.
He and Brian had spent most of the day sleeping. They had been co-drivers in Palestinian ambulances all night. By experience we know that both patients and medical staff have an easier time with an international co-driver. Then the ambulance is rarely held back at the checkpoints for hours, the driver and patient rarely harassed, and never beaten up.
As the four of us walked towards the intersection I saw Brian and Tobias waiting. The streets were nearly abandoned. No cars, no tanks, and very few people. As we were two hundred feet from the two of them I heard the deep sound of tanks. I saw Brian and Tobias turn to face the street to the right and raise their hands in the air.
As the four of us joined them two tanks came into sight down the street. We were six internationals standing on a row with our hands in the air. We stood on the street to be clearly visible so that the soldiers wouldn’t take us for Palestinians.
The front tank opened fire when it was about fifty feet away. I saw sparks on the street in front of us as bullet hit the pavement. I wanted to stand still but after two-three seconds of non-stop shooting I realized that this was not the normal warning shots. For the first time during my two months in Jenin I got really scared and started running.
After just five-seven steps I turned around. Maybe because of a scream, maybe I sensed something had happened. I saw Brian flat down on his stomach with his hands on his face. He was completely still.
I ran to him and kneeled by his side. I thought shrapnel had hit him from the bullets I had seen making sparks in front of us. I saw his face was in a pool of blood. I asked him to let me see the wound, and he lifted his upper body, turned his face towards me and removed his hands. It looked as if his face had exploded. The right cheek was only attached at the ear.
"This is bad, really bad," I screamed to my friends that were gathering around us. As I looked up I saw the tanks passing us slowly within fifteen feet distance. "Call an ambulance, and tell them to hurry up," I screamed.
Panic was getting a grab of me. I looked at Brian’s destroyed face and all the blood, and I couldn’t come up with anything to do. I wanted to use my hands to hold his face in place but I couldn’t’ get myself to touch it. I was desperately trying to think of something, anything I could do to help him but I couldn’t. I looked up again. The tanks had now passed us as if nothing had happened.
"I don’t know what to do," I yelled to who ever would listen.
Luckily Ewa did.
"Take of your T-shirt and press it against his face," she said.
By now the tanks were gone.
I did as she said and it felt good to be able to act. It was a white T-shirt but when the ambulance came less than a minute later it was red. It wasn’t until two hours later I realized that my hands were all red to and I had stains in my face.
Brian woke up two days later in a bed at an Israeli hospital in Haifa. Everyone was amazed by the quick recovery. It had taken the surgeons eight hours to do the first emergency operations. Many more were waiting him. Shortly after started communicating. Not speaking of course. His mouth was all smashed up, and his whole face except for the eyes wrapped up in bandages. The eyes were swollen and he didn’t open them the first week.
But he could hear, and he could remember. His brain seemed undamaged. Right away he started writing short sentences on a piece of paper. No one had dared hope that two days earlier when the surgeon told us the wound was made by a direct shot by a big calibre gun. The bullet had entered through the right cheek just below the eye and exited through the left jar below the ear. Had his face had a slight different angle he would have dropped dead.
One of the first sentences he wrote was: "I feel more Palestinian than ever before."
Five days after his shooting Brian Avery celebrated his 25th birthday at the hospital in Haifa. The bandages were off and Brian was in a very bad mood. Today he is back with his family in North Carolina. The Israeli Army has yet to take responsibility for his shooting. They send out a press release the same day saying he was caught in crossfire between armed Palestinians and Israeli soldiers returning fire and that it was most likely a Palestinian bullet.
I know that no gun besides the Israeli machinegun opened fire. I know we received no warning before the bullets started coming. I know the soldiers didn’t stop to help.
Is that how it feels being Palestinian?
2) Last Year at Mas'Ha By: Starhawk April 5, 2004
Tonight is the first night of Passover, the Jewish festival of liberation that ends, traditionally, with the ritual phrase, "Next year in Jerusalem." A year ago, I spent this night at the peace camp at Mas’Ha, after returning from Rafah where I’d been supporting the team that was with Tom Hurndall when he was shot a few days before. I wrote, then, that I could not say "Next year in Jerusalem" ever again, because the pain I felt at the injustice and violence my own people were perpetuating in the name of that dream.
But I also wrote about the hope I felt at that camp, where Israelis had responded to the village’s request for support, and how good it felt to see young Palestinians and Israelis simply hanging out together around the fire. Today I’m thinking about the fruits of that camp. I’m not far away. I’m in the International Women’s Peace Service house in Hares, just down the road. We got up at 5 a.m. this morning to go to another demonstration in Bid’du against the Wall. Bid’du is the village in Jerusalem’s hinterland where a few weeks ago four people were killed in a peaceful demonstration. Today we march with about 50 villagers, a small group of internationals, and some of the Israelis who are now regulars at these events. We climb a hill where yesterday a bulldozer scraped a raw path, and plant olive trees. The men have brought 15 trees and they are fast and efficient with pick and hoe a Israeli who, with his curly black hair, looks like my brother when he was young, scrapes with the hoe. A few days ago he was nearly killed when a military jeep tried to run him down. He was able to leap onto the hood and was carried off downhill, but survived. I take the hoe away from him and swing it, chopping away at the rocky ground just to show these shebob that I know how to swing a pick. Then we plant the tree, packing the earth around it. I pull out a small bottle of sacred water, waters of the world, we call it, from my pocket, and sprinkle the tree. "This is water from my land," I tell the crowd, "where I also grow olive trees, and I want to water this tree with it as a symbol of solidarity." They all applaud, and then bring a big jug of water to wet the tree’s roots. This is my Passover blessing, I’m thinking. This is probably the last demo I’ll attend on this trip and it
The bulldozers aren’t working today, it turns out, and the soldiers don’t appear. We hang out in the sunlight, chant, make speeches. A sheikh leads a group of the men in religious songs. Mohammed goes off to town, brings back tomatoes and cucumbers and flat bread covered with zata, thyme, and sesame seeds for us all. This is my unleavened bread, I think. Rebecca, the tall, red-haired ISM volunteer who is also Jewish, is standing beside me and I point to the bread. "It’s our matzoh," I say, "Happy Pesach."
For the past five days or so, I’ve been doing trainings of various kinds, with groups ranging from the internationals who come, to the Palestinian coordinators of the ISM, to women from the villages who are organizing actions. It’s not that I’m actually *training* anyone to do anything, I’m more facilitating a process of collective thinking about strategies and action planning for the incipient nonviolent movement that is trying to gain ground here. And I’m learning a lot.
Palestine actually has a long, rich history of civil resistance, from the strikes and protests of the Mandate years to the first intifada, which was a primarily nonviolent uprising that drew participation from all sectors of society. There were massive boycotts of Israeli goods, strikes, demonstrations, a tax revolt in Beit Sahour, and people perceive that the strength of that resistance drove the Israelis to the bargaining table that resulted in the Oslo agreements. They won the recognition of the PLO as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; the problem is that the PLO failed them. Oslo contained no teeth, nothing to guarantee the establishment of the Palestinian state, and while negotiations dragged on, the Israeli government continued to support new settlements that took more and more strategic land from the already tiny area that could have been Palestine. The began to ring Jerusalem--and meanwhile each "offer" of each succeeding Israeli government granted less autonomy and reserved more land for security buffers. Barak’s so-called "generous offer" actually claimed another huge chunk of the West Bank and again contained no real guarantees. So many people lost faith--in negotiations, in the peace process, in nonviolent tactics, and that deep despair is part of the grounds for the greater focus in this intifada on armed struggle and bombings.
But now some of the Palestinians are beginning to lose faith in armed struggle. And many are beginning to remember the successes of the first intifada, and to look for forms of resistance that can involve the vast majority of people who will not take up arms or become suicide bombers. And especially in the villages where the Wall is being built, a movement of mass, nonviolent resistance is growing. Up until now, the villages have not been as brutalized as the camps and cities. Many had, until recently, commerce with Israelis and, while many have experienced attacks and harassment from settlers, others have had friendly relations with the settlements in their midst. A year ago, when Mas’Ha set up the peace camp in the path of the bulldozers, they called for aid from both internationals and Israelis, who responded by helping villagers maintain a presence there for months. Mas’Ha lost demonstrations and direct actions wherever the bulldozers are at work And between the Israelis and the Palestinians there’s the respect of comrades who daily face a common danger.
Still, I wish all those people who so blithely say, "We call on the Palestinian people to adopt the tactics of Martin Luther King and Gandhi" would just come here and face the immense difficulties of doing so in a combat situation, when you are faced with a military who has no compunction about shooting unarmed demonstrators. And where success, when it comes, means stopping the bulldozers for a few hours, but knowing they will eventually take your land, your water resources, your ancient trees, your way of life. Try getting up every day and going out to face tear gas and rubber bullets aimed at heads and eyes. You rack your brains trying to figure out how old women can protect themselves from soldiers willing to beat them bloody, how mothers with small children should respond to tear gas, how leaders can emerge when to stand forth puts your life, your home, and your freedom at risk.
Nonviolence isn’t some magic formula that guarantees success. It works in specific ways, all of which are fraught with special difficulties here. Nonviolence can reach the hearts of an enemy and transform them, and that has happened with some of the soldiers, but many of them are so fortified by their own sense of victimhood and righteousness that they are impervious to shame, guilt, or any sense of the humanity of these people. Nonviolence can reveal the inherent violence in an unjust system, and arouse the public against it. Well, here the violence is overt and clear, but so far the world’s public doesn’t seem to give a damn--or if it does, it has yet to impact Sharon or Bush. Nonviolence and noncooperation can raise the costs of unjust policies--but many of the usual methods of noncooperation can’t work here. The Palestinians can’t go on strike: they are already locked out of the blocked, continually, every time they need to leave their village or travel more than a few miles in any direction. They can’t even demonstrate where the Israeli public can actually see them, because they can’t get into Israel proper.
Nevertheless, these people are determined and courageous, and we make plans and do role plays and come up with new ideas for campaigns. And over the course of the days we spend together, the mood shifts from frustration and despair to optimism and hope--perhaps only because activists everywhere share a temperament that is happy and optimistic as long as we have something, anything, we can do.
The trainings take place under some difficulties. We ask everyone to turn off their mobile phones. But Palestinians and ISM coordinators simply can’t bring themselves to do so. An emergency might arise: they might miss a call. And indeed, during the course of the first three or four days of training, emergencies arise. The home of one of the leaders of nonviolent actions in Kharbata is demolished, and six of our Israeli friends are arrested trying to prevent the destruction. Our coordinators from Nablus, who have reached the training under great difficulties, get word on the last day that there is an incursion, the city is sealed even more tightly than before, and tanks are rolling in.
When the trainings in Ramallah are finished, I go back with Fatima who is organizing women in the Salfit district. We arrive at her home after a winding journey in the hills, passing a checkpoint and being interrogated by soldiers who accept my story of university research and let me through. While waiting for our car, just beyond the checkpoint, we are harassed again by the soldiers who drive up just as the hired car arrives, and force us to open our bags. But we get in, and arrive at Fatima’s house on the edge of the village. We climb the stairs, and hear her five children singing behind the door. "They are singing about how much they miss their mother," she says, and opens the door to be engulfed in a tidal wave of children throwing their arms around her in octopus hugs.
We spend a slightly surreal evening, eating together from trays on the floor in Middle Eastern style while Oprah Winfrey interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger on cable TV. The older girls, Shams and Mais, ask if I can sing. I ask if they have a drum and they pull out a big doumbek and I play and sing for them--then Shams takes it and sings a popular song of resistance in Arabic in a true and beautiful voice. The younger kids are teaching me how to cross my eyes and look goofy while Mais grabs my computer and begins opening every file looking for the games I don’t have. Finally, to quiet them, I put on my Lord of the Rings DVD and explain the whole plot to Shams so she can translate to Arabic.
"Sauron, he’s the evil lord, he’s made this ring to rule all the others and give himself incredible power, so he can rule the world."
"Like Bush," Fatima says. "Like Sharon."
It’s a long movie and before it’s over we are all asleep on top of each other in a giant pile. Then we rouse ourselves up to go to bed.
In the morning, I do a training for the women. When I talk about fear, each one has a story to tell--a midnight knock on the door, a husband or brother killed, a terrifying encounter with the soldiers. For them, the beatings, the rubber bullets, the violence they face in demonstrations is just a seamless continuation of the ongoing violence they face in every aspect of their lives. And yet they are here to strengthen their ability to resist that violence without returning it. I look into their strong, smiling faces, and feel hope.
It remains to be seen whether this movement will grow, whether it can swell into a mass, popular nonviolent resistance, or whether it will burn out in despair or blow up in acts of desperation as the Wall claims more and more ground.
But I know one thing--it can’t succeed unless it has support, unless all of us who deplore violence find a way to constrain the violence of Sharon and the military and the governments, including our own, that support them. If we join these villager in demanding justice, if we stand together as a world community as we did against apartheid in South Africa, then maybe next year or some year we can stand, not in Jerusalem as it is, or Mas’Ha as it was, but in that better place we sense could be, when we see the hands of Palestinians and the hands of Israelis and American Jews and internationals from all over share a piece of the common bread on the land they struggle for together.
For photos, please see: http://www.palsolidarity.org/pictures/PHOTOS_5Apr04_09_07_46JerusalemISM-Huwaida.htm
3) Israeli Army raided Tulkarem Hospital By: Weaverly April 4, 2004
[Tulkarem] Sunday...I’ve been out of sorts lately. Fortunately some arrived today. Actually it was an odd day. I have had a touch of something for the last several. Could be homesickness (if I had a home) or loneliness (but I don’t "do" lonely and have always enjoyed time to myself) a bad case denial...rumbling stomach, all nerves exposed, and horrendous back/neck pains. But this morning I awoke with only the back and neck pain and was grateful. Perhaps that’s what it’s like being a Palestinian. Grateful that even though they demolished my house, I am alive. Even though they built a wall between my family and the school, at least they didn’t steal all my land.
Shariff arrived at noon with his usual greeting: "you ready now?" And my usual response "now?! Where?" In fact I quit asking that, trusting him. We went to the Patients Friend Clinic where I am well cared for. This time (the foot is healed) they took x-rays of my back and neck, and, because I mentioned it the other day, did a blood sugar. "No", they said, in response to my question of how I much I could pay for services, "This is for us to take. You are here for us. We will take care of you." And they did.
I returned home, blessings of Shariff who borrowed a stick shift which didn’t want to do hills and was inordinately interested in all pedestrians, and the cursing of Abdel Karim, who didn’t trust Shariff’s driving. Abdel and I chatted a bit and he returned to his office (he’s a journalist) and I to my mat. I slept a bit, lulled by the kids playing outside. I was awakened by gunshots, fairly scattered, what sounded like a tank firing but may have been sound/percussion grenades, more gunfire. I’ve learned to sleep through these sounds. But I went downstairs. Abdel Karim had returned, and was transmitting photographs; several hours had passed.
Two nights ago, a young Palestinian man, apparently recently released from Israeli prison, broke into an Israeli settlement and shot and killed a man. He was, himself, killed by the Israeli military. That settlement is close to Tulkarem. The following morning, a "curfew" was imposed on Tulkarem, although most people didn’t act on it. I, unaware, (and being out of sorts, as you will recall) thought a walk to the market, two blocks from my flat would make me feel better. No market. Most shops closed. Businesses closed. I later understood that the soldiers had surrounded the town, had closed off all exits and entrances. The city was not hermetically sealed but affected. As in, farmers couldn’t bring their produce to market to sell. It rots. Milk or deliveries are not allowed. The doctor from Israel who was to have seen to my back that day could not come because of the checkpoints. This than $2.00 a day, one day of no market is devastating.
This morning in the wee hours, the Israeli army destroyed the home of this young man’s family. That home, of course, was attached to other homes. Much damage. Besides the loss of a son, this woman is now homeless. That is standard procedure, it appears. Whether she had any knowledge of his activities or not.
The Special Forces had, so the story unfolds, commandeered the highest apartment above the home area of the family where, this morning, the family and friends of the woman came to grieve, mourn, express anger and commiseration. Shooting guns into the air is one way Palestinians send a message to the departed soul that he has been loved and heard, that his family will be cared for, etc. There are rituals around mourning here quite different than my own; they seem to provide needed stability in times of tremendous grief.
In this case, the Israeli military were in a home above this demolished home, apparently looking for the young man’s friends. They shot into a car, wounding several people; they also shot into the crowd. The wounded crawled into the crowd and were taken to Tulkarem hospital.
Just after I left the hospital area myself, the soldiers came in force into the city. They apparently held secondary school girls at the school, located near the hospital and blocked off the hospital, not allowing anyone to come or go. One of the morning victims, I believe, had already died at this time. Another was in surgery with a critical head wound. It seems that a third one was in the ambulance ready to be transported to Nablus for further critical treatment. Israeli soldiers blocked the ambulance from leaving. They also wanted the body. The soldiers demanded he be put into their transport unit. I don’t know how long the situation lasted.
Caught in all this were the families who this morning came to grieve the death and destruction of another family. Now they had lost their own, and were under attack by soldiers again. I do know that one of the medical volunteers was taken.
As Abdul Karim was telling me this, I needed to run upstairs for a phone charger. I heard hearty "hello!" from above and finally located a group of women and children on a building top across the street. "What’s your name", the first thing Palestinian children learn in English. I waved, called them my name and finished my errand. Downstairs, I helped Abdel Karim identify photos he’d taken at the scene earlier and send them off to AP and others. We could still hear gunshots. I was trying to understand the sequence of what happened. He was getting calls on his two cell phones filling him in on details or calling for names, etc. The children weren’t playing outside like they usually do after school. I took a smoke from him. I couldn’t understand. How many Palestinian deaths equal one Israeli death? Are one dead Palestinian and his family home demolished not "enough"? The young men that Terrorizing others in the process? He likely will die also.
I couldn’t understand. I don’t understand.
Abdel Karim shrugs. He has no answers. The outside buzzer sounds and I go down my long narrow courtyard (it is that, just a yard wide) to answer the door. It was two women from the roof across the street who came to introduce themselves. I can’t remember their names. As we wended our way through introductions and pointed to helicopter, acknowledge soldiers in the area (a word that sounds like jeesh), I saw beyond them barreling down the road, a border security hummer with its ominous blue light flashing. It honked (I’m sure it was their polite "hi") Yikes! It meant they now knew where I live. They are the ones who can arrest me. Not the army. The army can take me away, beat me, but the border police are the fearsome ones. The two women started to come inside to get away but then quickly said goodbye and ran. Perhaps they didn’t see me. Doubtful. I stand out. I have hair and don’t we
Back inside I moan to Abdel Karim who has received more information that the army has blocked off an area down near my favorite internet cafe and another area. He must go to his office to write up an article. I want to go with him and call my daughter from his office. I am her Sunday morning wakeup call. Is it safe? I bring my camera. He says. You are a journalist. You are safe. Hah! Hasn’t he read? The dead ones in Iraq. The dead one last week in Nablus? I go anyway. His office is two blocks away from here. Tiny Abdul, age 4, with his little brother Mohamed, greets me again with "what’s your name". He knows my name now. And I know his. He gives me a low 5. All is well.
I come home to Ghali, my neighbor, coordinator of ISM here, friend whose name is pronounced Rhally (that will do although it isn’t really right) and who has been in Ramallah for training. We talk and laugh and his two roommates come in. I ask lots of questions of these guys: would they demonstrate? Would they kill? Would they do direct action? Would you explode yourself? These are awful questions.
Ghali chides me for asking. I apologize. I want to understand. His roommate then shares that his brother, who lived in Jenin, (a city that has seen much more than its share of destruction, killing, bulldozing, murder, etc at the hands of the Israeli military) had to move to Jordan because he worked in hospital and each day saw Palestinians coming in without limbs, with bullets in their heads. He had to leave his country.
We move on to other things. Ghali talks of ISM summer campaign plans. It’s a truly exciting campaign. I realize that for the piece I want to participate in, I will be gone. Home. Wherever that is. He says no, you can’t go. You must walk the wall.
And then I tell them to go home. My back hurts again.
Am I different than when I awoke this morning?
Taken from Weaverly's journal at www.livejournal.com