13 March 2010On Friday, March 13th, the one year anniversary of the critical injury of international activist Tristan Anderson, approximately 100 Palestinians, Israelis, and internationals gathered for the weekly demonstration in Ni’lin to claim justice for Tristan. Anderson, a 38 year old U.S. citizen who was volunteering with the International Solidarity Movement, was hit in the forehead by a high-flying tear gas projectile during a demonstration in Ni’lin last year. The projectile was fired against IOF regulations, as soldiers shot the canisters directly at demonstrators rather than in an arcing fashion. According to the manufacturer of the tear gas canisters, the projectile was designed to penetrate walls and to be used in confined spaces; neither was necessary at the open-air demonstration demonstration in 2009. Tristan sustained serious brain damage, and remains hospitalized in Tel Aviv, his condition too serious for him to be moved home to the US.
In Ni’lin, midday prayers took place in the shade of olive trees, creating a picturesque setting. Afterwards, demonstrators marched firmly through the fields towards the metal gate in the concrete Apartheid Wall, while chanting and holding banners supporting Tristan. Three farmers brought their donkeys along in hopes of reach their farming land beyond the Apartheid Wall.Ni’lin has lost about a third of its land to illegal Israeli settlements and the Wall. Only a limited amount of villagers have permission to access their lands behind the Wall, most of them elderly persons who do not have the physical capacity to farm. On Friday, all farmers were denied access to their land. While the crowd was overtaken by a viciously strong tear gas attack, soldiers passed through the gate. One of the farmers was brutally separated from his young son and arrested. Simultaneously, an Israeli activist was arrested while taking pictures.
After approximately 15 minutes the army invaded the village to surround the demonstrating crowd, plaguing the crowd with tear gas and sound grenades. The demonstrators approached the Wall again, holding up banners and chanting, which was answered by the army with more ammunition aimed directly at them. Clashes between the IOF and demonstrators continued for two hours until the army withdrew from the village.
Background on Nil’in:
Israel began construction of the Wall on Ni’lin’s land in 2004, but stopped after an injunction order issued by the Israeli Supreme Court (ISC). Despite the previous order and a 2004 ruling from the International Court of Justice declaring the Wall illegal, construction of the Wall began again in May 2008. Following the return of Israeli bulldozers to their lands, residents of Ni’lin have launched a grassroots campaign to protest the massive land theft, including demonstrations and direct actions.
The original route of the Wall, which Israel began constructing in 2004, was ruled illegal by the ISC, as was a second, marginally less obtrusive proposed route (http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=622). The most recent path, now completed, still cuts deep into Ni’lin’s land. The Wall has been built to include plans, not yet approved by the Army’s planning authority, for a cemetery and an industrial zone for the illegal settlement Modi’in Ilit.
Since the Wall was built to annex more land to the nearby settlements rather than in a militarily strategic manner, demonstrators have been able to repeatedly dismantle parts of the electronic fence and razor-wire surrounding it. Consequently, the army has erected a 15-25 feet tall concrete wall, in addition to the electronic fence. The section of the Wall in Ni’lin is the only part of the route where a concrete wall has been erected in response to civilian, unarmed protest.
As a result of the Wall construction, Ni’lin has lost 3,920 dunams, roughly 30% of its remaining lands. Originally, Ni’lin consisted of 15,898 dunams (3928 acres). Post 1948, Ni’lin was left with 14,794 dunams (3656 acres). After the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the illegal settlements and infrastructure of Modi’in Ilit, Mattityahu and Hashmonaim were built on village lands, and Ni’lin lost another 1,973 dunams. With the completion of the Wall, Ni’lin has a remaining 8911 dunams (2201 acres), 56% of it’s original size (http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=1366).
Ni’lin is effectively split into 2 parts (upper and lower) by Road 446, which was built directly through the village. According to the publicized plan of the Israeli government (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/819633.html), a tunnel will be built under road 446 to connect the upper and lower parts of Ni’lin, allowing Israel to turn Road 446 into a segregated-setter only road. Subsequently, access for Palestinian vehicles to this road and to the main entrances of upper and lower Ni’lin will be closed. Additionally, since the tunnel will be the only entryway to Ni’lin, Israel will have control over the movement of Palestinian residents.
Israel commonly uses tear-gas projectiles, rubber coated steel bullets and live ammunition against demonstrators.
Since May, 2008, five of Ni’lin’s residents were killed and one American solidarity activist was critically injured from Israeli fire during grassroots demonstrations in Ni’lin.
* 5 June 2009: Yousef Akil Srour (36) was shot in the chest with 0.22 caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (https://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7023).
* 13 March 2009: Tristan Anderson (37), an American citizen, was shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas projectile. He is currently at Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv with uncertain prospects for his recovery (https://palsolidarity.org/2009/03/5324).
* 28 December 2008: Mohammed Khawaje (20) was shot in the head with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition. He died in a Ramallah hospital 3 days later on 31 December 2008 (https://palsolidarity.org/2008/12/3742).
* 28 December 2008: Arafat Rateb Khawaje (22) was shot in the back with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (https://palsolidarity.org/2008/12/3714).
* 30 July 2008: Yousef Amira (17) was shot in the head with two rubber coated steel bullets. He died in a Ramallah hospital 5 days later on 4 August 2008 (https://palsolidarity.org/2008/08/3346).
* 29 July 2008: Ahmed Mousa (10) was shot in the forehead with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and pronounced dead upon arrival at a Ramallah hospital (https://palsolidarity.org/2008/07/3329).
In total, 20 people have been killed during demonstrations against the Wall (https://palsolidarity.org/2009/06/7647).
Israeli armed forces have shot 40 demonstrators with live ammunition in Ni’lin. Of them, 11 were shot with 5.56mm caliber live ammunition and 29 were shot with 0.22 caliber live ammunition.
Since May 2008, 112 arrests of Ni’lin residents have been made in relation to anti-Wall protest in the village. The protesters arrested by the army constitute roughly 9% of the village’s male residents aged between 12 and 55. The arrests are part of a broad politically motivated Israeli campaign to suppress grassroots resistance to the Occupation.