My perspective on what you might have seen in the news

by Robin

It seems Palestine and Israel have been dominating international headlines in the past week or two – violence in Jerusalem, rows over settlement expansion, the inevitable failure of the resumption of peace talks. Lots of people have been asking me how things feel from this end.

There is a lot of talk here about whether or not we’re seeing the start of the third intifada (an intifada is an uprising. The word means ‘shaking off’ in Arabic – the first ran from 1987-1993, the second from 2000-2006). Of course, no-one really knows whether the increased resistance activity of the past few weeks will continue to build, or whether the Israeli suppression of it will be successful and things will calm down again. Certainly, there is enough tension, anger and frustration here, after 43 years of Occupation, for people to rise up, but equally the memories of the second intifada are still fresh – the killings, imprisonments, curfews, travel restrictions etc that were collectively inflicted upon all Palestinians are not something that anyone is particularly keen to go back to. On the other hand, the building of the illegal apartheid wall, the growth of settlements and a million other factors make resistance imperative.

In Jerusalem, an extreme right-wing Zionist group called Elad has taken over the archeological digging around what may be the ancient City of David. Their digging under a Palestinian neighbourhood has already caused roads to cave-in in several places, and a classroom of a school to collapse, injuring a number of schoolgirls. Archeological digging there for the previous eighty years has caused no damage – Elad’s approach to archeology is violence disguised as culture. Most frighteningly, they are undermining the foundations of Al-Aqsa mosque – the site of the Dome of the Rock (Islam’s third holiest site). If Al-Aqsa falls, which is clearly their ultimate aim (Al-Aqsa is on Temple Mount, where some Jewish people believe the Third Temple should be built), all out war seems pretty likely.

Anyway, all these factors and more have led to a lot of action here recently. Hundreds of Palestinians have been seriously injured in the past week, as have a small number of Israeli soldiers. A number of Jerusalemites have told us that last Tuesday was the biggest military presence in the Old City they’ve have seen since 1967. There were big clashes near checkpoints around the West Bank as the Israelis had closed access for almost all Palestinians. Two of us were at Qalandia checkpoint when Israeli soldiers invaded a home, climbed to the roof and then fired huge amounts of tear gas and rubber bullets down into the rush hour traffic below. We helped one old man from his car after a tear gas canister had smashed through his back windscreen, gassing him inside his vehicle.

There have also been new weekly demonstrations starting up in villages throughout the West Bank, usually in places that have had land stolen for illegal settlements or for the construction of the Wall. The Israeli authorities have adopted a tactic of increasing their violence at these week by week to try to stop people coming. Two villages, Bili’in and Nilin, have been designated as Closed Military Zones every Friday for the next six months – a measure not seen in years. Yesterday, in An Nabi Saleh, three jeeps separated about ten of us (medics, members of the Popular Committee, two teenage girls, and two internationals) from the rest of the demonstration and then started firing at us from point blank range (3-4 metres). My friend Ellen – whose update I sent round before – was shot in the arm. The bullet lodged entirely inside her arm, breaking the bone above her wrist. As I tried to get her to safety, they continued to hurl tear gas at us, and arrested three people who were begging them to stop firing at us. They also then initially wouldn’t let the car leave that was trying to take us to an ambulance. However, we did finally make it to a hospital, and Ellen will be ok, though I think we’re both quite traumatised. After we left, the violence from the soldiers got even worse. 25 others were hurt, including a Palestinian child who was hit in the head and an Israeli activist who was shot three times in the leg. Several houses and cars were also attacked and damaged.

The Palestinian resistance inspires me every day. In that same village we were in yesterday, a 14 year old was very nearly killed when a rubber bullet lodged in his skull a fortnight ago. But the following week, the demonstration was bigger than ever. After the violence of yesterday, I know that they will continue the demonstration again next week, as will the villages where the Israelis have tried to ban the protests completely. People will make great sacrifices to fight for their right to be free, and we will continue to support them in that. Of course I don’t want to be shot, and I never again want to have to hold the hand of my friend as she screams in pain while a bullet is pulled from her arm. We’ll be as careful as we can to keep safe, but that won’t stop us going out again next week to stand alongside the Palestinian people.

The fact they aimed so deliberately at us as internationals yesterday, and also at the Israeli activists who were there to protest against their own government, highlights the fact that they don’t want the world to know what they’re doing. Please tell people.

If you’re reading this and wondering what you can do from home, I’d suggest checking out the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement – their website ( has information about different campaigns people can get involve with. Or, of course, if you’ve got some time on your hands, come and see for yourself – join us in Palestine.