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Facing violence, Nabi Saleh maintains its resistance against the Israeli occupation

By Leona Vicario

16n20130416053826.jpg

Photo by John Space.

April 16, 2013

On April 12, Nabi Saleh was again at the center stage of another Friday demonstration against the Israeli occupation. 

Around 100 people among them Palestinians of all ages, in addition to Israeli and international activists, participated in the village’s weekly march. The peaceful protest headed from the center of the village to the top of the hill that leads to the valley where there is a small water spring, named al-Kaws, which was previously used by the Nabi Saleh inhabitants. Since 2009 however, the settlers from the adjacent illegal settlement of Halamish built on Nabi Saleh lands have expropriated the spring, and the goal of the Friday demonstrations is to reach this point as a symbolic act in the face of the larger action of rejection the Israeli occupation in its entirety. 

As the parade arrived to the hill, an array of tear gas canisters fired by the Israeli soldiers rained down. Avoiding the gas, the protesters turned around and changed the route towards the entry road of the village, guarded by an Israeli military watchtower and a group of soldiers who closed the road minutes before. As the protest advanced, the soldiers moved toward the demonstrators and stationed themselves at the bottom of another hill close to the villagers’ houses, pushing them to come back to the village by shooting tear gas and rubber cover bullets. Following this strategy, commonly implemented with skunk water too, the soldiers manage to break up the protests week after week. Frequent house raids and arrests are among the price that the Nabi Saleh residents, with a population of 550, have to endure as a result of their persistent struggle.  

The water spring is now under the settlers’ and Israeli military custody. The Nabi Saleh villagers considered this action as another step to consolidate the settler’ illegal ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, blaming them of further confiscating the land between the Halamish settlement and the natural resource. 

The land extends around the water resource was historically the property of the Tamimi family, the big clan that mostly compounds the village census. Currently, it is also forbidden for the farmers, who are sometimes attacked by the settlers when they go down to the spring.

"We just want to reach the spring or work [on] our land," activist and member of the Nabi Saleh Resistance Committee Manal Tamimi explained. "But we just get stones, live ammunition, skunk water, tear gas or rubber bullets." 

The village resident Mustafa Tamimi died two years ago in December 2011 after being shot in the face by a tear gas canister from a short distance. The latest fatality of the village was Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot and wounded by Israeli live ammunition and died three days later in November 2012. 

The protests are typically met with disproportionate violence from the Israeli army. The past Friday witnessed a Spanish activist who was shot with rubber bullets shots in her side and back. 

"The soldiers are sending a message: until you keep on making your protest, we will make your life harder and harder," Manal stated. 

Nabi Saleh has become in a symbol of nonviolent resistance in the West Bank.. The village followed the path of other villages three years ago, which saw the escalating number of protests from these villages against the Apartheid Wall, demonstrating against the stealing of their land, the presence of the illegal settlers, and the Israeli military occupation. 

The Nabi Saleh villagers’ will and persistence have caught the attention of mainstream media outlets, such as the in depth report published in The New York Times in March entitled "Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?" as well as in projects aimed to highlight their struggle like the upcoming documentary "Thank God It’s Friday."

Regarding the context of the nonviolent resistance, Manal states, "It is not an easy option for us as Palestinians [to continue protesting in the face of violence]. But you have to ask for yourself what you would ask for everybody. In another way, my resistance would have no meaning." 

She strongly believes that there is not a clear way to act because without any doubt, the Palestinian future "is foggy and dark" but they will go on. 

"The First Intifada was based on nonviolence resistance and after that, we changed the model. But with the Second Intifada, we lost almost everything that we had achieved before. It was a mistake. Nonviolence is a new strategy for Palestinians and some of them are getting used to it. It requires sacrifice, determination and for sure is natural to be afraid. We even find some people that criticize our choice alleging that we are getting money through our struggle. Every Friday, before demonstrating, we say goodbye to each other because maybe it will be our last time together. I will not risk my life or replace my relatives for money." 



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