Non-Violent Protestors Swarm Israel’s Borders
Posted by uscsjp on May 17, 2011
“AMY GOODMAN: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared three days of mourning for the 14 Palestinians killed when Israeli troops opened fire on mass protests at Israel’s multiple borders Sunday. In an unprecedented action, Palestinian refugees from Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, as well as residents of Gaza, tried to enter Israel. In addition to those killed, hundreds of people were wounded. As many as 300 people from Syria overwhelmed border patrols and briefly entered Israel. One protester described the Syria action from the hospital.
WOUNDED PROTESTER: [translated] We crossed the border and entered Majdal Shams. We clashed with the Israeli army. We threw stones, and they fired back at us. I was shot in my leg. Some people are still there. And some people were killed.
AMY GOODMAN: The mass protests came on the day that Palestinians call Nakba Day, when they mourn the 1948 establishment of Israel because of the mass expulsion of Palestinians. Lebanon, Syria and Jordan are home to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who were driven out of their homes in 1948. The bulk of Sunday’s deaths came in Lebanon, where 10 Palestinian youths were killed in the southern border town of Maroun al-Ras.
MOUFID SATEH: [translated] I tell the whole world that they should know that after May 15th and after this massacre, the Palestinians will hold their heads up high and will not surrender and lay down their arms until Palestine is liberated.
AMY GOODMAN: In Egypt, at least 350 pro-Palestinian demonstrators were injured when Egyptian police violently crushed a protest outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Egyptian police reportedly fired live ammunition, tear gas grenades and rubber bullets at the crowd.
The violence comes amidst a wave of protests sweeping the Arab world and a number of major developments in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Israel is trying to prevent the United Nations from recognizing an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. Earlier this month, the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a unity deal to create a national government and hold new elections.
President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday, one day after Obama delivers what aides say will be a major speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East. President Obama will also deliver an address Sunday before a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. Last week, President Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, resigned.
For more on the border protests, we’re going to go to Cairo, Egypt, and to the Occupied Territories. In Ramallah, we’re joined by Fadi Quran. He’s a youth leader there who helped organize the protest at the Kalandia checkpoint on Sunday.
Welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about the point of the protest and what happened, Fadi. Fadi, can you hear us?
Well, let us turn right now then to Christopher Whitman. He was seriously injured in the West Bank on Friday when he was shot by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired by Israeli forces. He is a master’s student at the Hebrew University in Islamic and Middle East studies.
Welcome, Christopher. Talk about what happened to you, what the protest was about on Friday.
CHRISTOPHER WHITMAN: Sure. Every Friday in the village of Al-Nabi Saleh in the occupied Palestinian territories north of Ramallah, there’s a peaceful demonstration against illegal land confiscation of the village’s land. Recently, they have been very violent. The Israeli reaction has been very violent. And I had been this past week. I had been a couple times before, previously, but this past week was an even bigger reaction than normal.
For the first three hours, it was mostly children between the ages of 10 and 12, who were singing nationalist songs, who were jumping up and down, dancing, trying to access their village’s land. After about three hours of this, the Israelis overreacted, started beating the older residents of the village, started throwing tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the children, and then started beating women who were wearing hijabs, started spraying pepper spray in their eyes.
This is when I started to back up. And I was about 15 meters away from the border police at this time, and he shot a tear gas canister directly at my head. As you can see, I have a bandage on my head. I was shot at close range with a high-velocity metal tear gas canister.
This protest goes on every week, and every week there’s a massive amount of injuries. The village only has about 500 people, yet every week there are almost 30 injured. So, we’re talking about eight percent of the village every week is injured and engaging in nonviolent protest, who are mostly children. We’re mostly talking about people that are under the age of 12 and over the age of 55, who are just asking and protesting for their rights to not have their land taken away to expand Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories…”
–Democracy Now!, 17 May, 2011
See also this blog entry by Amy Goodman:
Tony Kushner and the Angels of Dissent
“Tony Kushner will be receiving an honorary degree from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. This shouldn’t be big news. Kushner is a renowned playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for drama, along with an Emmy Award and two Tonys. The degree became big news when it was abruptly shelved by the City University of New York board of trustees during its May 2 meeting, after a trustee accused Kushner of being anti-Israel.
A campaign grew almost immediately, first calling on previous recipients of honorary degrees from CUNY colleges (of which John Jay College is one) to return them. Within days, what would have been a quickly forgotten bestowal of an honorary degree erupted into an international scandal. The chair of the board, Benno Schmidt, former president of Yale University, convened an emergency executive session of the board, which voted unanimously to restore the honor to Kushner.
The controversy exposed the extreme polarity that increasingly defines the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the willingness by some to suppress free speech and vigorous dialogue to further rigid, political dogma…”
–Amy Goodman, TruthDig, 10 May, 2011