Nabi Saleh, a village of 600 residents some 20 miles northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank, has seen its surrounding farm land burned and its trees uprooted to accommodate an encroaching Israeli settlement. While some of the houses in Nabi Saleh are in Area B (an area of the West Bank partially under Palestinian control), and as I explain in Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with both Sides, 97% of their land has been labeled Area C (an area completely controlled by and recently designated as such by the Israeli government).
The Tamimi family, whose house is in Area C and is under demolition orders, has lived in this village for over 400 years. According to Bassim Tamimi, our host on a recent visit and a member of the villages’ Popular Committee, “My grandfather was a Christian and my great grandfather was a Jew. We don’t perceive Jews as our enemy but rather the Israeli military which protects the Israeli settlers.”
The Israeli settlement of Neveh Tzuf was established on land belonging to Nabi Saleh in 1976. In the ensuring years the villagers began holding demonstrations opposing the stealing of their land. They took their case to Israel’s Supreme Court but were unable to stop the construction of the illegal settlement. Since 1976, Neveh Tzuf has not only continued to expand and steal more and more land, but it has also seized control of the fresh water springs all of which were located on private Palestinian land.
As a result of this water theft, the residents of Nabi Saheh must now buy water from Mekorot, the same Israeli company that allowed the settlers to steal this resource. Currently, every house in Nabi Saleh receives seven hours of water every Sunday afternoon. This is the extent of their weekly water supply.
The residents of Nabi Saleh have been practicing creative resistance against the Israeli military occupation since 2005. “We refuse to die in silence,” said Bassim. “Our duty is to resist. We’ve studied Gandhi and Martin Luther King. By our nonviolent actions, we want to act as an example to others.”
The Israeli military brutally represses the weekly nonviolent demonstrations in which internationals and Israelis participate by shooting rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into the crowd. They often times shoot live ammunition at the protester’s thighs to sever nerves. Two villagers have been paralyzed as a result, 50 are permanently disabled, 350 have been wounded and two have been killed. Over 80% of the men and 10% of the women have gone to prison. Bassim has been arrested and imprisoned nine times for protesting the confiscation of his land. His wife spent four years in an Israeli prison for organizing “illegal demonstrations” and causing “incitement.”
Initially, each Friday at protest time, Bassim and the others would gather all the children in one house to “protect them” while the adults carried out their protests. When Israeli soldiers began purposely lobbing tear canisters into the house and firing sound bombs on the children, the adults ultimately decided, on the advice of a psychologist, that it was better to take the children with them so they would lean how to defend themselves. Prior to each Friday demonstration, the villagers say their goodbye’s to one another just in case one or more of them don’t make it safely back home.
According to Bassim, the media used to be controlled by Israel but now thanks to social media he and others are able to share their message and their struggle with the world. The children have also become experts in social media. One ten year old “journalist” by the name of Janna Jihad has over 35,000 Facebook friends. https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/738023053005871/
The residents of Nabi Saleh are articulate, well educated people and ask their friends around the world to stand with them as they continue to practice nonviolent resistance against some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations, now in its 50th year.
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