Tear Gas and Sound Grenades
Today is Friday. On Fridays, in every village where the wall is present, shabab, internationals from numerous groups around the world acting in solidarity against the wall, Israeli’s against the wall and… Palestinian children- little ones- gather close, at the front lines sling shotting stones at the approaching, tear gas firing IDF.
Why do they do this? Because these children were born in and live under occupation from a brutal force which treats them and their families as though they were insects.
I was strongly advised NOT to participate in the demonstration due to my current state of bronchitis, laryngitis, fever and throat infection that set in my second day in Dier Istiya. But six of us packed in a car, the driver, a Palestinian activist paralyzed in the first Intifada, using hand levers on the steering wheel to accelerate and decelerate, drove us towards a demonstration site in the village of Nili’m. Passing NUMEROUS settlements along the way, one was pointed out because of a settler who plants and cares for olive trees along the side of the entire valley, while on the other side, Palestinians are not allowed to plant and consistently have their trees uprooted. Before we even reached the village of Nili’m, our driver began getting calls advising him to turn around. “Do NOT go to today’s protest. There will be so much tear gas there will be no where to escape to.” This on speaker phone and the driver quickly pulled to the curb.
After a few moments, we decided to press on but stay at a distance. From 15 yards away, I stood in complete shock with the camera clutched in my hand- Teargas canisters being shot through the air- at children- sound grenades screaming out, kids running, soldiers (roughly twenty five) advancing without ceasing to fire the canisters at the children. One of our companions quickly ran me over a couple of alcohol pads- passed out to everyone- by now our eyes were burning. Even the inside of the car, parked around fifty yards away, smelled like tear gas when we got in.
I understand that desensitization is a process. It, in many cases, is an inevitability, especially when your emotional understanding of existence lies within brutal framework. When the soldiers began running towards us, we ran to the car. Leaving felt worse than staying. I suppose at some point I would or could get used to seeing before me, children being attacked in such a way- perhaps incredibly similar to the way that Americans become desensitized to the fact that “our” government’s money-pipeline to Israel funded the display I saw today as well as the one I will see next week- and the one that Palestinians watch play out week after week- this as a part of their lives of persisting within the understanding that your existence as you know it needs to be deconstructed for you to achieve liberation and that its on YOU to tip the scales the right way while millions of hands pull obscenely against your favor- that the odds are against you- and that nothing, nothing they have or share or love or care for or value or cherish is free from target and destruction.
Never before have I noticed so strongly that in the occupied West Bank, reality doesn’t come to you in small, digestable teaspoons of medicine, as it does in the western world. No. In Palestine, your portion of reality comes fogging out of tear gas canisters and shouting out of sound grenades.
And it has to stop.