The Israeli Occupational Forces murdered Mustafa Tamimi last Friday at Nabi Saleh’s weekly protest, as he and a friend followed the armoured jeeps demanding that they leave the village. They were unarmed. They were facing one of the best-equipped militaries in the world. The photos are candid; an Israeli soldier is hiding behind the doors of his jeep, just the barrel of his tear-gas gun emerging. But Mustafa and his friend Ibrahim were not afraid. The soldier shoots the canister as a bullet, from a couple meters away, aimed for Mustafa’s head. Then the jeep drives away.
Yesterday, Ibrahim told me of moment he thought his friend had just ducked down. He goes, rolls his friend over, and “of what I can say about it, it is worse than words can say. The whole half of his face was blown off … there was a pool of blood gathering under him. His whole body was trembling. It started from his feet, then up to his arms, then it reached his chest, and then his head, and then a gasp came out and I’m sure at that moment he died… Maybe later on they revived his heart for a while, but I knew that his soul had left.”
On Saturday we took to Ramallah’s streets chanting slogans like “the blood of our martyrs is not cheap!” and calling for the next Intifada. In my parents’ time the stores would have closed and the streets would be packed, instead many people walked by on the sidewalk and continued their conversation. What happened to the respect we had for our martyrs who die fighting against everyday Israeli brutality? Nonetheless, emotions were high. The youth were angry. This was their brother, their friend, or their comrade in the struggle for freedom. Many people broke down into tears in the streets, wailing. One who had sustained a rubber-coated bullet to the head at the same protest passed out and was sent to hospital. Women screamed out and grabbed each other for support. And hardest of all for me was to see the men turn into boys, because it reminded me that even the strongest and bravest people are just human and still have a heart that can shatter.
Sunday morning a couple hundred people gathered at the hospital to receive Mustafa’s body into the ambulance. Men carried Mustafa on a plank on their shoulders, as I’ve seen time and again in photos. This time we marched, we marched with him. We got into cars and followed Mustafa to Nabi Saleh. As we neared the village, we began to see Israeli soldiers stationed along the route. Two military jeeps joined the caravan of cars. We saw the jeep equipped to fire gas, and the truck that shoots skunk-water. A girl in my car pulled down the window and screamed “you killed him!” at a group of soldiers. “Fuck you!” replied one.
My hands were shaking. It wasn’t a surprise but it still hurt to see – how could Israel send military to this man’s funeral after murdering him? Was it purely to disrespect Mustafa & his family?
There were at least 2000 people once we congregated in the village. Although Ramallah has become distracted, the surrounding villages are still united and came to pay respects. We marched to the mosque and as many people as could fit went in and prayed the noon prayer, and the janazah prayer for Mustafa. His body was then taken to his house, then to the cemetery and placed into the ground. People chanted and gave speeches with a deep seated conviction.
A few images stay stark in my mind. A little girl looking concerned as her mother breaks into tears. A young boy holding his friend and nuzzling him, trying to comfort him – his expression saying that he wished there was something more he could do. A young man collapsing and being held by his friends as he weeps. Women leading the chanting as their shouts broke into wails. And of course, the men carrying Mustafa’s body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag with keffiyeh on his head.
Only minutes after the funeral ended, the Israeli military is shooting tens of the same tear gas canister that killed Mustafa. Once again, they were breaking the law by aiming them at people instead of shooting them in an arch. I jump to the side and one speeds past me at stomach level. Cars are trying to get home and are being hit by the canisters. Tear gas fills our lungs and make it impossible to get air in; our eyes and faces burn. The worst part is if you panic. You hyperventilate and feel yourself suffocating. So I stay calm.
I cannot understand why the soldiers operating these weapons did not feel shame at what they were doing. The next thing to come out was the skunk-water truck: this shoots, at far distances, a clear liquid with a sewage-like smell that will likely cause you to burn or throw out your clothes if you’re touched. Mostly it just leaves the village smelling like shit.
Suddenly people were calling us back. At the bottom of the valley were several more soldiers stationed, and people wanted to confront them. I arrived to many of the women holding posters of Mustafa Tamimi into the face of these soldiers and screaming, WHO KILLED MUSTAFA? over and over again. A man was beside me, chanting “who killed him? Who killed him?…. Who killed my brother?” My heart plummeted.
For a moment, I saw true fear in these soldiers’ eyes. They retreated, tripping over their feet. MURDERERS, MURDERERS, chanted the crowd of mostly young women. I noticed their commander budge past me and felt something hit my foot. I looked around for it as I saw him run to the side. 5 seconds later a sound bomb exploded. The ground moved under our feet and I couldn’t hear anything for half a minute. Tear gas went flying at protesters that had moved away slightly from the soldiers. They kept throwing sound bombs into our midst. One exploded on the back of my leg and I felt the burn.
Suddenly out of the commotion I saw two soldiers had an Israeli activist strangled and pressed to the concrete.
Then soldiers moved in to grab Jonathon Pollack, a well known Israeli activist. There was a railing inbetween them and a soldier had him in a chokehold and was strangling him against the railing. People grabbed onto him and soldiers tried to shove and kick them out of the way. I saw Jonathon’s face, so pale. More soldiers approached and me and a Spanish friend tried to stay inbetween. One soldier pushed the Spanish man backwards over the railing, landing on his back. Another shoved me, then lifted his leg and kicked me to the ground.
People managed to protect Jonathon from arrest, but he was visibly weak. He had to be carried by others to safer ground but as they tried to get away, soldiers shot gas at them even though he was visibly injured and they were retreating. They had nowhere to go. They couldn’t carry him up the hill or take him to the road with the soldiers. It was only after all the commotion I’m about to describe that an ambulance arrived on the road and took Jonathon while soldiers attempted to arrest him.
On the street, soldiers had officially given way to their brutal nature. A soldier grabbed a picture of Mustafa out of a girls hands and crumpled it up. I could see the fury and sorrow build up in her as she tried to get it back from him, screaming from her depths at this arrogant soldier. Not one soldier interfered when another kicked a woman, grabbed her by the hair, or dragged her across the street. Soldiers had decided to go for a friend of mine from France. I grabbed onto his body. We were knocked to the ground. Another girl grabbed onto me.
In the chaos I remember struggling to hold on as we were hit from behind. One soldier had his elbow on the French man’s neck turning his face red. It became clear to me that the soldiers were trying to arrest the men that were with us. My Spanish friend was targeted. All the women began to throw their bodies over these two men. One of the girls, Linah, was shouting like a mantra: “You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us. You’re not taking any of us,” and it still rings in my ears.
They did manage to arrest the French man, but the Spanish one, the women clung onto, and some men made a circle around the women, and they walked him to the rail and let him go to run up the hill. While the others were busy with one man I saw the soldiers go for a man I don’t know. We clung on to each other to try to resist arrest but soldiers were trying to pull me away. One finally grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the ground. A pair of legs were over my head and a man, that seemed to come from one of the cars that stopped to watch, began shouting at the soldier in Hebrew: She’s my sister! My sister! The soldier didn’t care.
The rest is chaos in my mind. We refused to leave anyone behind as we finally retreated up the hill. We took our time though and screamed Criminals! Animals! at the soldiers as they aimed for us with tear gas. One of the men photographing was on the brink of unconsciousness and others struggled to get him up the hill. They urged him to breathe, “I can’t…” he whispered, and they quickened their step.
This experience is a drop in the sea of the systemic oppression of living in an occupied state without basic civil rights. Not to mention the influence of the media. “You were let off easy,” one Palestinian man told me, “once my mother tried to get in the way of my arrest and was punched in the face, then truly beat. A camera is our strongest tool.”
May the people of Nabi Saleh see their land returned and live to see a day without an occupation over their heads.
As I’ve reported before, every week since 2009, the village of Nabi Saleh goes out to demonstrate against the theft of their land and water spring by the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. The final and symbolic goal of their protest is to reach the spring although it is always guarded by several soldiers. This week after the protest ended, I couldn’t bring myself to leave the hill. So instead a friend and I picked flowers while soldiers watched us suspiciously from a distance. Eventually we climbed our way back down to near the soldiers, picking flowers, and in the end I wanted to see what the fresh water spring looks like.
I walked alone up to a stunned soldier standing outside his jeep. ‘I just want to take a picture and leave,’ I told him.
‘But there are soldiers up there’ he replied, seeming to have no idea how they would react. I quickly moved on.
Up at the spring were about eight soldiers, who all got up and squinted at me. When I told them what I wanted they huddled and began to speak on the radio. ‘Don’t move until we get a reply’ one told me. The spring was more beautiful than I had expected, but the pictures can speak for themselves.
The soldier who had met me at the bottom had followed up, probably interested to see what would happen. ‘You just want to take pictures and go? Do it then. Then go.”
I snapped a few, then the radio seemed to get back to the group of soldiers. “You have to leave now. This is a closed military zone. You have thirty seconds. Where are you from?”
Palestine, I replied, and kept taking pictures. Another soldier came and kicked the flowers I was photographing. I looked up at the others, “who is this animal?”
“Be careful with your words” was the only reply.
Nabi Saleh has been a victim of IOF violence, night raids, siege, curfew, checkpoints, and arrests, but until Friday no one had ever been martyred. When witnessing the violence iniflicted by the IOF during the weekly protest, this was seen as a a miracle [hence Lina Alsaafin’s article “No Miracle Yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Mustafa Tamimi murdered“]. As of March 31, 2011, 64 village residents have been arrested. All except three were tried for participating in the non-violent demonstrations. Of those imprisoned, 29 have been minors under the age of 18 years and 4 have been women. With a population of only 550, Nabi Saleh was visibly profoundly affected by the death of Mustafa Tamimi. We will see in the coming months how it changes the nature of Nabi Saleh’s struggle against occupation. May he rest in eternal peace. Allah Yerhamo
No Miracle yesterday in Nabi Saleh: Tamimi murdered – Electronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: My humanity is only human. I hate my enemy. A deep vigorous hatred that courses through my veins whenever I come into contact with them or any form of their system. My humanity is limited. I cannot write a book titled I Shall Not Hate especially if my three daughters and one niece were murdered by my enemy. My humanity is faulty. I dream of my enemy choking on tear gas fired through the windows of their houses, of having their fathers arrested on trumped-up charges, of them wounded by rubber-coated steel bullets, of them being woken up in the middle of the night and dragged away for interrogations that are spliced with bouts of torture…
Funeral of murdered Mustafa Tamimi ends in more IOF violence & savagery – blog account of funeral, Holly Rigby: Covering and protecting the bodies of those trying to be arrested, the women were screaming so loudly for the soldiers to stop and this sound pierced my heart more deeply than any sound bomb could ever have done. As I stood a few paces back from what was happening, my whole body was wracked with uncontrollable sobs as I helplessly looked on as the scene unfolded…
…But we will keep going – blog account of the murder & funerals, Maath Musleh: “It is Mustafa!” someone said. And memories rushed through my head. I saw the rainy days of spring when we used to climb mountains and hills to avoid the IOF checkpoints blocking entrance to the town. I saw the day I finally managed to reach the town after an hour of hiking through the mountains. I was limping. I was not injured, but my shoes were torn. I head to Mustafa’s house where I took a nap on mattress near him. I had my tea and cigarette. Mustafa got me his shoes to wear. He refused to take them back at the end of the day…
A courageous Palestinian has died, shrouded in stones – Ha’aretz, Jonathon Pollack: The army spokesman was right. Mustafa died because he threw stones; he died because he dared to speak a truth, with his hands, in a place where the truth is forbidden. Any discussion of the manner of the shooting, its legality and the orders on opening fire, infers that the landlord is forbidden to expel the trespasser. Indeed, the trespasser is allowed to shoot the landlord…
Video & testimony: Israeli soldier savagery at Mustafa Tamimi’s funeral – Electronic Intifada, Linah Alsaafin: I still can’t comprehend why arrests were made and violence was used by the Israelis. Were our words of truth threatening to them? Were our words of truth threatening their security? Did our words of truth penetrate so deep into their conscience that caused insecurity within themselves?
Tamimi was killed because of occupied village’s insistence on access to its only well – Mondoweiss, Andrew Haas: It was David vs. Goliath, inaccurate slingshots vs. scoped rifles firing lead-cored rubber bullets, taunts and jeering vs. concussion grenades and tear gas, and teens in t-shirts vs. soldiers in body armor. My image of myself as fearless faded as I watched little girls lightly skip out of the way of concussion grenades, and boys compete over who threw the tear gas canisters up wind. To me, this was the next world war. For them, this was a regular day off from school.
I was Mustafa Tamimi – blog, Refaat Alareer: Fifteen years ago I was Mustafa Tamimi. Two months before that it was a relative who had his skull smashed by an explosive bullet from an Israeli sniper. Later that same week another neighbor lost his eye. Before and since then, the same situation has been repeating itself again and again: an armored jeep, a soldier armed to teeth, a tiny figure of mere flesh and bones, and a stone smeared with blood on the side of the road. That’s the saga of Palestine. That’s our tale, full of injustice and oppression, whose hero struts and frets and whoever gets in his way is doomed. But we get in his way anyway.