July 12, 2008
Nilin: A profile in iron resistance
Seth Freedman | The Guardian
Afer four days of curfew, the village of Nilin is not a pretty sight. Torched cars lie strewn on the sides of the road, bedroom windows sport gaping bullet holes, and debris is scattered the length and breadth of the town: Evidence of the brutality meted out indiscriminately by the army against the locals.
As I followed the trail of destruction, the tales of woe grew ever darker and ever more indicting of the Israel Defense Forces’ cruelty. “Look what they did to me!” screamed an elderly grandmother, hoisting up her robes to display the raw wounds inflicted by soldiers who had thrown her against a stone wall during a raid. She began sobbing as she recounted the events of earlier in the week, utterly bewildered as to how she had come to be mistreated so.
Upstairs, her middle-aged son clutched his two children to his side as he recounted the night the troops burst into his home.
“Imagine what it does to your son and daughter when they see you beaten by a soldier,” Hillal Khawaja said flatly. He showed us the wreckage of a room that had borne the brunt of the military’s ire: Computers ripped from their sockets, beds smashed and furniture overturned, nothing had been spared the wrath of the marauding infantry.
Further up the road, a family pointed out the scorched linoleum in their kitchen and the shattered glass of their windows, the result of a random bullet and grenade attack launched by passing jeeps. “We were inches away from where the shells landed,” said the father of the house, as his children looked on timidly. “If we had been any closer, we’d have had no chance.”
Three residents weren’t so lucky. The trio were hit with live fire during the incursion. All are still in hospital with the bullets still lodged inside them; one entered a man’s spine, and it will be a miracle if he can walk again after surgery.
The psychological trauma is just as bad, with parents talking of children terrified to sleep in their family homes, convinced that the soldiers will come back, and turn their lives into teargas- and bullet-filled nightmares once more. His resolute spirit was evident amongst the entire town on Thursday, as hundreds of residents braved the ring of steel around them and took to the fields to demonstrate against the wall once again. The rally had been billed as a “monumental” gathering to mark the fourth anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion against the wall, and scores of activists made it in through the barricades to swell the numbers marching determinedly through the olive groves.
There was only ever going to be one outcome to the events: Within seconds of the protesters entering the closed military zone, two dull thuds rang out, sound grenades ringing in round one like the bell at a boxing match. Two minutes later, teargas canisters arced their way through the sky toward the marchers, who donned gas masks, ski goggles, snorkels and any other makeshift shields they could find for protection against the acrid plumes engulfing them.
Rocks were hurled at the soldiers by boys with slingshots; rubber bullets and stun grenades were fired back in response. Youths wrapped keffiyehs around their faces, screaming “Allahu Akbar” as they launched their pathetic missiles toward the heavily armed soldiers protecting the bulldozers on the next hill, but they were fighting a losing battle from the off — in the here and now, at least.
In the long term, however, the locals may well have more success than other villages in their attempts to hold back ever-encroaching tide of concrete slabs. They have managed to capture the attention of the international media, as was evident by the presence of staff from AFP, Reuters, AP and other prominent news agencies. At the same time, the fact that the army had to resort to imposing a curfew demonstrates that they are succeeding in disrupting and delaying the day-to-day construction of the barrier.
What is certain is that the indefatigable spirit of the residents is as strong now as it has ever been, despite the callous pogrom the army is carrying out in retaliation for their unarmed protests. Just as determined to oppose the criminal expropriation of Palestinian land was the 20-strong International Solidarity Movement contingent that had set up camp in an apartment in Nilin’s town center to bolster the locals’ resistance.
With the wall getting nearer to completion with every passing day, time is running out for the Palestinians to prevent themselves being permanently sealed inside their concrete cage. But in what little time remains, they can at least take some solace in the fact that they are by no means alone in their struggle. And that fact, if nothing else, strengthens their resolve to keep on with their fight, despite the crushing blows the IDF relentlessly rains down upon them.