I can hear the screeching of the opening door and footsteps getting closer. I was expecting to be brought in front of the interrogator, but instead I feel the blindfold slide down. I naturally open my eyes and a beam of light makes me go blind again. When I finally manage to put into focus, I notice a man standing in the middle of the room, starring at me. He smiles, hands me some juice and seats next to me.
“I took off my soldier uniform so you’d see me as an equal; I’d like to talk to you.”
I couldn’t help being suspicious. One of my first memories related to the military green outfit dates back to when I was about seven years old. The soldiers, during an incursion, lined us up in the main square of the village keeping us under the blazing summer sun. The clockwise movement of our shadows stressed the hours fading one after the other. I don’t remember what aroused my hilarity, but I dared to laugh in front of them causing the rage of a soldier who grabbed my head and smashed it several times on the nearby wall.
Now, a soldier in civil clothes is approaching me asking for a confrontation to be addressed with the use of words and not with the live ammunitions of his M16. I realize that without his green armor, my perception of him has changed: before being a threat, he’s a human being. I tell him so. He smiles again and without hesitating he immediately asks:
“Why do you throw stones at us?”
The most inflated question I receive. As if the whole occupation issue could be minimized to that act. I sigh and answer:
“Isma31, I won’t talk about myself, but I’ll tell you why Nabi Saleh throws stones at you. Actually, you already should know, since you are rendering service there.”
“I don’t or I wouldn’t ask. You just come to the checkpoint and throw stones at us.”
“I see, so paraphrasing… what you’re telling me is that you are working in some random village of the West Bank of which you don’t know nothing about, nor its history or its demands, and even so, just because you
receive orders, in your ignorance you feel perfectly fine in controlling our mobility, in humiliating us, in expropriating our land, in carrying actions of intimidation against us, in torturing us, in shooting us and in killing us! You are making our life miserable just because we are Palestinians, yet we shouldn’t have the right to react to your inhumanity? We are still mourning our ancestors’ sufferings added to the ones we endure daily, and even if we believe that any mean is justifiable against the colonizer, we choose to respond to your oppression with nonviolence. You should be the ones carrying this painful burden, you should be the ones considered accountable for it and be ashamed! Instead you carry weapons.
Sumud, inner resistance, is what keeps us steadfast. It’s not a choice but a must for us. It’s a daily tension against a systematic ethnic cleansing supported by the institutional powers. Be it the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli Zionist government or the International Community. The stone is the
symbol of our resistance and its launch a clear statement towards the occupier: ”You’re not welcome. Go away from our land.” It’s
not thrown to harm, but to protect oneself, it’s an instinctive reaction.”
I pause a bit before proceeding with settled voice: “You repress us thinking you’ll eventually be able to tame our spirit, but until we don’t receive justice and freedom, it won’t happen. The occupation must end.”
He bursts into laughter “I doubt that will ever happen!” and continues: “And in Nabi Saleh, what is the original issue?”
“Nabi Saleh has a glorious past of resistance. If you mean what has triggered our outrage, it’s been the confiscation of our land.You allowed the Halamish settlement to be established and eventually to expand. You didn’t intervene when they illegally annexed agriculture land belonging to us from generations, you were accomplices. International law forbids the occupier from transferring its own civilians into the territory it occupies, nevertheless your government offered financial benefits and incentives encouraging Jews from all over the world to move in cozy gleaming apartments erected on stolen land.”
“Then file a complaint and go to court.” he said with an annoyed tone.
“Well, thanks for the advise. We already did. Twice.” I answered, catching him off guard. “In 1978, the Israeli High Court ruled that the confiscation was illegal and that the lands had to be returned to their rightful owners. However, as
it often happens here, the decision was never enforced and we continued to witness to the continuous grabbing of our lands. In 2008, we went to court again and once again it was recognized Palestinian land, Your court sent bulldozers to destroy the fence that was preventing us the access. When we finally managed to set foot on our propriety, we were attacked by the settlers with gunshots and stones. At the time, you stood there with no intention to stop them and you still don’t, when they enter the village with the intent to vandalize it. A year later, settlers, feeling strong of their untouchable aura, expropriated more private land including the natural spring ‘Ayn al-Qaws, renaming it Mi’yan Maeer. That was our only natural water resource.”
I pause to take my breathe, before asking: “Now I have a question for you: as a soldier you’re a slave to how many masters?”
I smile provocatively at him and continue: “You’re submissive also to the settlers’ will? Is this part of the servility training you received as a soldier? You protect them although they are violent, while you brutally repress us despite being nonviolent. You killed with no mercy two of our bravest men: Mustafa and Rushdie Tamimi. No one ever responded of their deaths, their murders were judged innocent.”
“We are soldiers, we must obey to the orders.”
Silence fell, saturating the air of unuttered words. Being a soldier is not a good enough justification. Refusenik, are those Israeli citizens that refuse to enter the army rejecting to dominate another nation, to carry out deeds of destruction and dispossession and to become a partner in crime of a State policy based on ethnic cleansing, apartheid, murder of civilians, massacre operations and daily violation of human rights towards Palestinians.
I stare at him judgmental, I know my thoughts are piercing through his consciousness. He just lowers his eyes.
“It’s our politicians’ role to find a resolution and that’s why there are negotiations going on with John Kerry’s mediation.”
This time I was the one that burst into laughter: “The peace talks will surely fail. The US role in these so called ‘peace process’ is to essentially act as Israel’s advocate. Palestinians’ are not even considered as a parti in this negotiation. Not even from our own authorities, who overwhelmed by corruption, they silence its people’s clear demands.We will not surrender our rights, as the U.S. And Israel have long insisted. Even if our leadership might consider it, the people won’t tolerate such outcome. Consider these peace talks as bogus, they’re just a petty coverage which allows your government to persist with its expansionist policy fragmentizing even further the territory. The subtle aim is to sabotage the remote possibility to establish a Palestinian State. Since the talks have started the number of settlers has increased radically, the settlements have expanded becoming actual towns or cities, proof that Israel isn’t willing to withdrawal from the West Bank. We are tired of living as prisoners in our own country, we want peace, but not an imposed peace dictated by Israel.”
“Than what’s the solution?”
“People are the solution. We all must get rid of the occupation ruling our minds, we must be able to dare, visualize and fight for an alternative future. The institutional suggested one hides only interests and profits. Many will call it utopia at first, but that’s only because it expects more audacity, engagement and passion. We need more visionaries.
Nabi Saleh, since five years, has chosen to embrace the nonviolent popular struggle. It inherited the spirit from the first Intifada and learnt from the previous experiences of nonviolent struggles, such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mandela, in order to forge a Palestinian model to follow. Next to us, Internationals and Israeli activists support and share our fight for liberation. We don’t deny our past of armed resistance, but we realized that this strategy change is functional to the time being and will guide us to the end of the occupation, in its whole. The strength of this movement resides in its horizontal participative base which allows anyone to contribute to the struggle regardless the religion, nationality and social class. The only condition is to feel ready to engage in a battle for freedom. Our approach is, de facto, already laying the foundations for a one state solution.”
“The Two States solution would give you a State of your own, why don’t you support this possibility?”
“Simply because it’s not a feasible possibility. It’s a lie that has been going on for too long, feeding the resignation of many. Have you ever seen a map of what’s left of the West Bank? The absence of territorial continuity, due to the settlements, the wall and the checkpoints, makes it impossible for a State to be established. The settlements would have to be dismantled, fueling the vicious circle of hatred and never-ending claims of sovereignty and ethnicity over the land. The bloodshed would be endless. Above all, our struggle is firstly for freedom, not for independence. The two aren’t synonymous, our right to self-determination must lead to the right of return, equality and justice for all citizens and that’s possible only with the deconstruction of the zionist ideology with guides Israel’s policy. We want to be able to live in a State where humanity, equality, justice, mobility and cultural self-determination is guaranteed to all its citizens. Only this choice will ensure a lifetime peace.”
The soldier was speechless, his head bowed, starring into nothingness. I could tell that I had been able to shake his awareness, to raise questions kept bound in his deeper meanders.
“I’ll tell you one more thing before I get interrogated and I get to know about my destiny. Don’t fool yourself, you’re not here to protect your beloved State, you are here to preserve the interests of a minority in power. They are playing with your fears, brainwashing you, raising you in the suspicion towards the Other caging you within false beliefs to better control your mind.
Maybe one day you’ll get killed, maybe one day you’ll kill me. Do you think they’ll care?They won’t as long as they continue benefiting from the status quo: the occupation. You should give your life a more meaningful purpose instead of perpetuating crimes.”
Just before they took me away, he raised his head and I managed to glimpse in his eyes the emotional turmoil that was taking over the confident military posture that he showed off all through the confrontation.
1Listen, in arabic.