Palestinian popular committees hold a convention in Nabi Saleh in bid to promote and unite the popular struggle against occupation and apartheid, launching a new type of weekly protest. The demonstration that followed was welcomed by soldiers with the traditional tear gas barrage.
The popular committees coordinating much of the unarmed struggle against the wall and settlements in the West Bank started a new campaign on Saturday. In addition to the weekly Friday protests in Bil’in, Ni’ilin, Nabi Saleh, al-Ma’asara, Qaddum and other places, each of which focuses on local issues, activists are now planning to hold a central gathering and protest in one of the villages once a month on Saturdays. These gatherings, organized also with Israeli activists (myself included) are meant to solidify existing forces and enhance them in order to promote the culture, tradition and tools of popular resistance.
The first event of this kind took place Saturday in Nabi Saleh. It was a symbolic date: 26 years since the beginning of First Intifada, which many in the movement see as a point of reference, four years since the start of demonstrations in Nabi Saleh, and two years since the killing of Mustafa Tamimi at a demonstration. Coincidentally, all in the same week, the IDF also decided to close the case against Tamimi’s killer, and supporter of the struggle Nelson Mandela passed away.
Some 300 Palestinian and Israeli activists, with a few internationals as well, gathered at the village center at noon. Speeches were given in memory of the martyrs and about the lessons of the First Intifada. Speakers also linked the West Bank protests to those against the Prawer Plan and to the jailing of Druze conscientious objector Omar Sa’ad earlier in the week. The small convention was closed with a dance put on by Nabi Saleh youth, followed by a march toward the army tower at the entrance to the village.
As soon as the tower was in sight, and with no provocation whatsoever, demonstrators were bombarded with tear gas canisters and scattered in an attempt to seek shelter. It took some while before the protest reorganized into two groups: one of local youth throwing stones at soldiers from an open field, the other composed of demonstrators marching toward the tower once again.
As the soldiers were preoccupied with stone throwers, shooting tear gas and rubber coated bullets at them, breaking the jaw of Mustafa Tamimi’s brother and chasing them into the village, the other group of demonstrators made it to the tower. Three were immediately detained and later released; the others were warned to leave. After a while demonstrators moved on to block the army jeeps that were now trying to exit the village after chasing stone throwers. The soldiers used force to clear the road. At the end of the protest another attempt was made to reach Nabi Saleh’s spring, which has been taken over by the nearby settlement of Halamish, and that too led to an army attack and storming on the village.
The event ended after about five hours with one person hospitalized. Later, news came in that elsewhere in the West Bank soldiers killed a 15-year-old Palestinian boy by shooting him in the back.