Friday, March 05, 2021

Israeli soldiers return Palestinian flags to activists

By Emily Mulder - July 17, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Life under Occupation]
Tags: [popular struggle] [popular resistance] [Settlement Expansion] [Israeli army] [Israeli law] [Kuffiyeh]

Palestinian activist Ashraf Abu-Rahmeh at the Ni'lin demonstration.  Photo credit Mahmoud Nawajaa 

Three Palestinian activists followed an Israeli soldier back to his vehicle, demanding the return of the Palestinian flags and kufiyas he had taken after pulling them over after a demonstration on July 7, 2013.

Activist Jamil Barghouti was hit with a tear gas canister from close proximity during the demonstration, and the group was on their way back from the hospital when the military vehicle stopped them.  

This was the fourth time the activists would be stopped by Israelis that day. Following a prolonged game of cat and mouse with Israeli security, attempts to carry out their demonstration near the West Bank town of Ni’lin were thwarted at multiple locations with roadblocks, tear gas, and threats of arrest. 

The goal of the demonstration was to place Palestinian flags outside the Nili settlement, located next to the Palestinian village of Deir Qaddis, in order to shed light on the current illegal expansion of the Nili settlement onto Palestinian land.

Around forty activists left the planned point of demonstration in Deir Qaddis due to a heavy Israeli security presence. They were then stopped in a second attempt by a single Israeli military vehicle blocking the road.  

Demonstrators had a brief moment of triumph, a few managing to climb onto an Israeli miltary vehicle waving Palestinian flags.  Cheers were soon silenced with tear gas and demonstrators retreated to their vehicles and turned away from the closed road.

En route to the next location of protest, the group was stopped by an impromptu road block. Protesters clashed with Israeli security again, and fled into the nearby town of Nil’in. After that the demonstration was called off.

Permit required to resist

The recent protest was part of ongoing collective efforts of leaders from the popular resistance movement to facilitate a series of demonstrations in strategic locations, aiming to reactivate resistance among Palestinians.

The series of demonstrations coincide with the 9th anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s (IJC) condemnation of Israel’s construction of the wall as illegal on July 9, 2004.  

Participants in the movement, representing multiple political parties and committees, intend to implement the IJC’s verdict on the ground, by choosing locations for protest that have been adversely impacted by the construction of the Israeli security wall and continued settlement expansion. Sites of demonstration include Beitin and Abu Dis.

Israeli treatment of activists in the West Bank bars freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate in direct violation of both international and Israeli law.

The events that took place during the demonstration highlight Israel’s illegal implementation of tactics used to repress Palestinian resistance. Israeli treatment of activists in the West Bank bars freedom of expression and freedom to demonstrate in direct violation of both international and Israeli law.

Israeli Military Order 101, “Order Regarding Prohibition of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda Actions”, prohibits Palestinians to gather in groups of ten or more without a permit obtained prior from the IDF, if the purpose of the gathering is “for a political goal or for a matter liable to be interpreted as political.” Additionally, the order bans publication or distribution of materials with “political meaning”, such as newspapers, photos, or filmed material, and restricts display of national symbols such as flags without special permit obtained from an Israeli military commander.

B’tselem reports that vague language used in the order allows for a wide range of interpretation. The Order’s permission for “the required degree of force” to be used to enforce the order is especially ambiguous and allows for excessive force by Israeli security forces. 

Israeli efforts to smother the right for Palestinians to demonstrate can be seen in villages across the West Bank.  Villagers of Nabi Saleh, for example, faced arrest, demolitions, and a harsh military response to demonstrations in 2011.

Small victories

At the end of the day, Jamil recovered from his injury from the tear gas canister, and the flags and kufiyas were returned. These seemingly small victories mark a different kind of success which exists under occupation, success defined by the ability to simply be present in the face of Israeli forces.

Israeli behavior towards demonstrators is a reality Palestinians face when resisting occupation.  Jamil illustrated this mentality when he told a story of a friend who confronted an Israeli soldier during a demonstration.

“They [Israeli soldiers] were shooting at us, and I remember he told the soldier in the face, '60 years you are shooting at us and killing us, and it’s not making us stop.  We are going to continue.’ We are a people who believe in our cause and we believe that the way to fight is through resistance.  When you choose this path, you know that you can expect that you can be shot, or injured, or arrested.”

60 years you are shooting at us and killing us, and it’s not making us stop.  We are going to continue

Although Jamil was injured and activist Jaber Abu Rahmeh was detained for one hour, Jamil told Palestine Monitor “We consider that we are lucky, that our message has been strongly expressed, and that we got back safe.”

Jamil felt the demonstration was a success due to the activists’ ability to maintain a presence in the area for more than six hours.  He smiled when he explained that he and his fellow activists felt a battle was won when they followed the IDF officer to his car, demanding, “we are not leaving here until you give us back our flags.”

When asked about the skepticism among Palestinians towards the effectiveness of the popular resistance movement in liberating Palestinians from occupation, Jamil said, “I admit that even in our own demonstrations the participation of the people is up and down.  It’s not constant. Despite this, our goal is to keep the mood of resistance present in the minds of the people.”


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