Nabi Saleh | April 28,2012
Palestinian women held a picnic last Sunday, April 26th at Nabi Saleh’s water spring which in 2009 was annexed by the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. Some forty Palestinian, international, and Israeli women congregated at the spring in reiterating Nabi Saleh’s rightful ownership of it.
In advance, most of us did not expect to reach the spring and were prepared for violence and arrests. Although several Israeli jeeps and soldiers were awaiting on scene, they just watched as we walked up to the picnic benches beside the spring. A collective sigh was felt and we all began to cheer, clap, and sing. Everyone, especially those from Nabi Saleh or familiar with their struggle, were overjoyed to reach the spring which has been the goal of Nabi Saleh’s weekly protests for the past two and a half years.
In December 2009, the Halamish settlement claimed Nabi Saleh’s fresh-water spring and Israeli courts and army have since supported the theft. Following this, Nabi Saleh has held regular Friday marches towards the water spring demanding an end to Israeli colonialism and occupation. More specifically, the demonstrations are about the nearby settlement of Halamish. Halamish was built on privately owned Palestinian and continues to expand. Halamish and the 250 other Israeli colonies and outposts in the Palestinian West Bank, are considered illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice.
The peaceful demonstrations are consistently met with extreme Israeli army brutality. Last Friday, Israeli soldiers and border police attacked several of us women with batons, and violently arrested journalist Bilal Tamimi. The week prior, on April 13th, Bilal’s sixteen-year old son was shot above the eye with a tear gas canister and evacuated to hospital.
The Israeli Occupation Force weekly attempts to suppress the protests with the use of rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, and the ‘skunk truck’, which propels torrents of a foul-smelling liquid. Live ammunition is also occasionally used. Last December, Mustafa Tamimi was killed when a tear gas canister was shot directly at his face.
Thus, the women’s scepticism at reaching the spring was not without reason. Despite expectations of a violent reaction by Israeli soldiers or settlers the picnic proceeded without problems, due at least in part to the high level of journalists and cameras that accompanied the group.
“If only we could just walk up to the spring like this on Fridays,” was a joke that passed tirelessly between us.
Our group sang songs about the Palestinian struggle and dipped our feet into the cool water. A couple of hours into the action, a bus of Israeli settlers attempted to reach the picnic but after speaking to Israeli soldiers they left.
After we had joyfully exhausted ourselves, we sat down and held a discussion about the significance of such an action and of congregating exclusively as women in a male-dominated activist world.
Women have always had a strong role in the Palestinian struggle and this generation is no different.